Time off: the rules are, there are no rules

A few innovators are redefining our notion of time off: we look at the boldest ideas and see how they’re paying off. Whether it’s a four day week, a paid-for vacation or unlimited time off, there are companies trying it out right now.

An empty beach – time off

A handful of companies are leading the way in revolutionising how we think about time off, and they are finding it really does pay to encourage staff to play.

The rapid advent of mobile technology has made it excruciatingly hard for employees to escape from work. Add to this the pressures of the recession, which have made job security almost non-existent and the notion of spare cash for a holiday a mere flight of fancy, and you are left with a burnt out, dulled and disengaged workforce.

A few guys have decided to break the rules of the traditional time off allowance that is leaving employees going nowhere. They have put anticipation and desirability back into time off requests in the hope of getting more from time spent on the job:

Paid, paid vacations at Full Contact and Evernote

Hitting the US headlines recently was a new incentive by Full Contact CEO, Bart Lorang. He’s going to pay his employees $7500 (on top of their salary) to go on holiday. The rules are you have to go on holiday, you have to fully disconnect and you can’t do any work while you are away. Similarly, back in 2011, Evernote introduced a $1000 bonus for those who took a weeklong trip and produced a flight ticket.

Lorang hopes to discourage hero syndrome and strengthen the company by ensuring no process or project is solely dependent on one person. He also feels for his employees and believes that with a worry-free opportunity to disconnect they will be more productive and engaged when they come back.

Four-day workweek during summer at 37Signals

Writing in the New York Times, Jason Fried described how, for a few years now, 37Signals has been working in tune with the seasons: from May to October the company only works a four-day week. That’s not 40 hours in four days, but a real 32-hour week.

The benefits of six months’ worth of three-day weekends are, Fried says, “obvious”. He adds, “there’s one surprising effect of the changed schedule: better work gets done in four days than in five.” 37Signals continues to innovate and this year also trialled ‘a month to yourself’ in which employees had no schedules, no pressures and got to work on their personal passion-project in the hope of sparking creativity and innovation.

Unlimited time off at Hubspot, Netflix, IBM, Motley Fool, GoHealthInsurance.com…

This is almost so common in Silicon Valley, it’s no longer revolutionary.  These companies took the leap: they put their trust in their own people. The aim was to attract and retain talent, reduce stress and increase productivity. It worked. Hubspot has been ranked #2 of the fastest growing companies on the Inc. 500 list. GoHealthInsurance.com clocked a 200% increase in growth this year. Evernote’s value is thought to have hit $1 billion this year.

With a streamlined holiday tracking system like Turbine saving you time and effort on paperwork, maybe you’ll have time to throw the rules out the window and experiment with new ways of promoting growth.

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