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is "unlimited vacation" a good thing?

 
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Richard Branson announced an unlimited vacation policy.

Ilja (a retired moderator here) wrote a blog post on the subject last month. He had a good observation about perceptions being linked to the size of the company. Branson's company is far bigger than Ilja's though.

I'm not a fan of "unlimited vacation" because I think it creates pressure to take less. I also think it invites tension on how much is appropriate.

Richard Branson wrote:It is left to the employee alone to decide if and when he or she feels like taking a few hours, a day, a week or a month off, the assumption being that they are only going to do it when they feel a hundred per cent comfortable that they and their team are up to date on every project and that their absence will not in any way damage the business — or, for that matter, their careers!”


I have two issues with this statement:
1) It requires a tremendous amount of trust. Or comfort or risk. I don't know of many companies that have that level of trust. (Ilja's comment about company size might be relevant there.) I currently get every other Friday off in exchange for working extra the other days. When I applied for it, I didn't know whether it would negatively affect my career. [it wasn't a problem for what it is worth]. But I didn't know that. I choose to take that risk. I don't think people should have to take a risk to take vacation. If someone is worried about the safety of their job, does taking vacation turn into a more stressful experience than working.
2) Going on vacation is great for the continuity and career growth of one's teammates. There is a big difference between 90% comfortable and 100%. Knowing you can function without the most senior person on the team is important. Realizing what your teammate "is the only one who knows" during a one week vacation is better than finding out when the person leaves.
 
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Richard Branson wrote:The new policy could also have the opposite intended effect. Workers’ unannounced, spontaneous vacations may result in the perception of no vacation time whatsoever, where everyone is on call 24/7 because work hours are meaningless.


He also says this. Which is what I worry about. It's not a vacation if you have to think about work and can't recharge. I like that my boss went away for a week and we didn't hear from him. It means he got to relax/reacharge. And we found out exactly what we need to learn more about to function optimally in his absence. Which makes us stronger for next time.
 
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Yeah, I don't like this idea - mostly for the trust issues you raise. I think many people would end up being paranoid about not taking excessive vacations, and would take very few vacation days. And would then resent those they perceived as taking too many vacation days. Doesn't seem like a recipe for a good place to work, to me.
 
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I like this idea to the point where it is controllable. From my point of view, this unlimited vacation coupled with some performance bonus should be more attractive. It of course requires trust and on top of that it requires employees that are 100% dedicated to the company.
 
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I think this is a bad and deceitful idea. Employment is ultimately a power-relationship, and the employer is inevitably the party with greater power. Sure, you can always quit, but the economic impact is often prohibitive. The company can always fire you, though, and many companies fire staff by the thousand if they think they can get cheap labour elsewhere. In any case, presumably the company can decide to revoke this apparent largesse whenever it wants, so your real vacation entitlement is still just whatever your local employment laws prescribe.

So this policy may appear generous, but what it effectively does is remove any clear entitlement to vacation (beyond the legal minimum), while also blurring the boundaries between the portion of your life the company owns and the portion that belongs to you. If you decide to just take off for a week without telling anybody, does your phone keep ringing as your exasperated managers try to work around your sudden absence? Do your colleagues start to resent you or freeze you out of key meetings etc? Do you start to worry about being out of the loop too long or giving the impression you lack "commitment"? If you can get your work done and still take months off, does that imply your job is not really necessary or could be merged with another part-time role?

As the article points out, this is more likely to make it harder for employees to feel they can take time off, and will probably just add to the presenteeism culture in many workplaces. But longer working hours do not mean greater productivity e.g. Greek workers put in many more hours than their German counterparts, while German workers enjoy 6 weeks or more paid vacation every year, but nobody holds up the Greek economy as a shining example of productivity.

We need to get away from this feudal approach to employment, where the rights (pay, workplace safety, vacation, access to healthcare etc) of the people doing the work depend on the whims of their employer. The employment power-relationship works best when the boundaries - duties, responsibilities and rights - of all parties are clearly defined, and workers and managers can work together productively within this transparent framework. If you and your managers are all entitled to 5 weeks' annual leave then it is perfectly clear how much leave you can take and it is your right to do so, subject to reasonable agreement with your managers about scheduling.

Branson may say he wants to allow his staff to take "unlimited" vacation, but what he really means is "unlimited" so long as the work gets done, and it is his managers who will decide this, not the individual employee lying on a beach. If he really wants to give his staff more time off, why doesn't he raise the minimum vacation allowance in his companies worldwide, so that all his staff - even the most junior - know they have a right to take e.g. 8 weeks' vacation every year?
 
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Joe Harry wrote:and on top of that it requires employees that are 100% dedicated to the company.



Now that worries me. Nobody should ever be expected to be 100% dedicated to their job.
 
Jeanne Boyarsky
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chris webster wrote:I think this is a bad and deceitful idea. Employment is ultimately a power-relationship, and the employer is inevitably the party with greater power. Sure, you can always quit, but the economic impact is often prohibitive. The company can always fire you, though, and many companies fire staff by the thousand if they think they can get cheap labour elsewhere. In any case, presumably the company can decide to revoke this apparent largesse whenever it wants, so your real vacation entitlement is still just whatever your local employment laws prescribe.


We don't have such laws here in the US. We have a voluntary employment contract. You agree to or negotiate pay and vacation before starting.

without telling anybody


This was never ok. Vacation still requires discussion even if not "approval". Your team would know you are on vacation. I'd like to think there is some sort of calendar in which managers could look it up as well. And presumably you could set your vociemail to say who you are backup is. Or maybe I am too optimistic on this.
 
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Jeanne Boyarsky wrote:We don't have such laws here in the US. We have a voluntary employment contract. You agree to or negotiate pay and vacation before starting.


Wow. I knew you didn't get much vacation in the USA, but I didn't know you had to negotiate this individually. Presumably anybody who asks for more vacation will struggle to find a job, so do you end up in a race to the bottom where - all else being equal - the person who accepts the worst working conditions tends to get the job?

Sounds pretty feudal to me!
 
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There's some interesting discussion of US vs. European vacations in this NYT article from 2010, with some follow-up comments from Americans and Europeans here.
 
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I didn't know you had to negotiate this individually.


You don't HAVE to negotiate. For my last two jobs, when the sent the letter/email with the offer, it says "This is the vacation policy". It's part of the offered package and you can accept it or not.

I think you CAN ask for more, but I never have.
 
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A friend of mine works for a software company across town that have an unlimited holiday policy. He says that most people end up taking less holiday than the local 'standard' holiday entitlement. Employees are a little bit in fear of taking too much time off should they be seen to be taking the piss.

I interviewed for this company a couple of years ago and I asked them about the policy at the time. I got the feeling that they weren't entirely sure how to manage the policy as any discussion of it all seemed a bit wooly. There's was a good deal of 'take it as it comes' to the whole affair.
 
Jeanne Boyarsky
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fred rosenberger wrote:

I didn't know you had to negotiate this individually.


You don't HAVE to negotiate. For my last two jobs, when the sent the letter/email with the offer, it says "This is the vacation policy". It's part of the offered package and you can accept it or not.

I think you CAN ask for more, but I never have.


Right. Some people ask for an extra week. For example, someone had 3 weeks at the previous job and doesn't want to wait X years to up from 2 to 3.
 
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I once had virtual unlimited vacation. Most everybody from the decision makers to guys in the lab were retired IBM managers working for fun basically and after a year or so there was a month of vacation and a month of sick days that eventually got changed officially into a two months of vacation, and what you didn't use rolled over into the next year. I had three or four months of vacation at one point.
 
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ok...so...just for discussion sake...

How does giving someone unlimited vacation make thing worse? In both cases (unlimited vs. 2 weeks/year or whatever), you have management pressuring you to finish projects, meet deadlines, and not take time off.

At my place, all time off comes from the same pool - vacation, holiday, and sick days (there is a separate short term disability bank I have if I get sick for 3+ days in a row). Last fall my wife had some health issues, and I ended up using most of what I had. This makes it very hard to take vacations/time off now, because I feel I need to build that reserve back up in case she (or someone else) gets sick.

If I had had unlimited vacation then, I wouldn't be in the situation I'm in now.
 
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fred rosenberger wrote:How does giving someone unlimited vacation make thing worse? In both cases (unlimited vs. 2 weeks/year or whatever), you have management pressuring you to finish projects, meet deadlines, and not take time off.



I think that probably depends very much on the culture of where you work. Where I work there's a general expectation that you will take your holiday, and I can't see anybody being pressured not to take it. I've even heard of places where it is compulsory to take your leave. I know somebody who worked in a job where not only where you supposed to take all your holiday, but it was required that some of it was in a block of at least two weeks.
 
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I think the term "unlimited" is not helpful as it creates wrong impressions; "unmetered" might be better. As Fred said, people will be expected to contribute, and someone twice as productive as someone else is probably paid more than that person, so should not rightfully be able to get away with working half as much time. And I'd agree that there's probably a race to the bottom as contributing more than others is the way to advancement.

I once was offered a job and asked for more vacation - which elicited a response of "why would you want that", which left me momentarily speechless... But I recovered nicely, got offered more, and took the job.
 
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fred rosenberger wrote:How does giving someone unlimited vacation make thing worse? In both cases (unlimited vs. 2 weeks/year or whatever), you have management pressuring you to finish projects, meet deadlines, and not take time off..


Because with two weeks of "use it or lose it", there is an "excuse" that you "need" to take the vacation you've earned that year. With unlimited/unmetered, it is easier to be pressured into not taking it.

Your case is interesting though. Health/disability is a protected category on some level. It would be awkward (even if not illegal) to penalize someone taking more vacation for a health issue.
 
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Jeanne Boyarsky wrote:Because with two weeks of "use it or lose it", there is an "excuse" that you "need" to take the vacation you've earned that year. With unlimited/unmetered, it is easier to be pressured into not taking it.


So would an "unlimited but with a mandatory minimum" solve the problems?
 
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Jeanne Boyarsky wrote:Richard Branson announced an unlimited vacation policy.


I think I'm with most of the others here in suspecting that "unlimited" certainly doesn't mean unlimited. It means "feasible". I'd also want to see a lot of the small print that specifies what happens if you take a couple of months off that DOES disrupt the company or cost them money.

I think I'd be much more in favour of "flexi-holidays" in which you have a mandatory minimum (possibly just statutory holidays), a nominal amount per year (eg, two or three weeks), and you get to manage them any way you like, including carrying over as many as you want and/or taking them in pay.

Being a single bod, I often had tons of hols piled up at the end of the year, and was forced to take them when I didn't particularly want to - except for one company in Canada, a small consulting firm, that allowed me to take the 7 weeks I'd banked off in the summer when they didn't have much work (because everyone ELSE was on holiday) to go cycle around France and Italy. Best vacation of my life.

If Branson REALLY trusts his people, then LET THEM WORK FROM HOME. For many people that's almost as good as a holiday.

I find it amazing that, in the 21st century, with connectivity as cheap as chips, that most companies still have this incredibly prosaic, 1950's, "bums on seats" attitude when it comes to management. People can't be working unless they're SEEN to be working. Funny how this is still a major divide between middle and upper tiers, who are "trusted" to get a lot of work done on the golf course.

I remember doing a research project on this back in 1995, when I was doing my MBIT, and reading that Shearson (I think it was them) conducted a pilot study involving people spending 2 days a week at home at one of their sites in New Jersey. They freely admitted that they made tons of mistakes, but productivity went up, and they saved something like 20 million dollars in property costs alone over 18 months.

Result: The idea wasn't adopted - basically because management couldn't get their heads around coming up with new paradigms for "managing" people who weren't there for them to see.

I suspect that the only way for any of this kind of stuff to work is if it starts from the top - so maybe it'll work at Virgin - but Branson has to be committed to it too. If it's just a "wouldn't it be nice if..." idea, it'll die as quickly as a blue-arsed fly.

So there's one for you Richard: if you "trust" us, why not give us unlimited location, rather than unlimited vacation?

Winston
 
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fred rosenberger wrote:

Jeanne Boyarsky wrote:Because with two weeks of "use it or lose it", there is an "excuse" that you "need" to take the vacation you've earned that year. With unlimited/unmetered, it is easier to be pressured into not taking it.


So would an "unlimited but with a mandatory minimum" solve the problems?


It would solve that problem. But it would create another. It would reduce the accounting trick where companies don't have to consider owed vacation.
 
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Jeanne Boyarsky wrote:It would solve that problem. But it would create another. It would reduce the accounting trick where companies don't have to consider owed vacation.


unlimited vacation in general eliminates that, doesn't it?

hmmm...thinking off the cuff...what if you got four weeks/year (just to pick a number). you have to use two weeks a year or you loose it, but over that, you can carry it over to the next year. You can't have more than 10 weeks (again, just a number for example) in your 'bank'.

BUT...

you can take as much vacation as you want. So if I choose to take 5 weeks this year, that's fine...I have nothing to carry over. if you take two weeks, you can carry over two into next year.

now this get complicated...because next year, I could take another five weeks, and carry none over. next year, you can take five weeks...do you loose one of your weeks in the bank?

hmm....this is complicated...

need more coffee....but maybe this will spark more discussion.
 
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Fred,
The accounting benefit works best when the "minimum" is zero. Because then no vacation is counted as an accrued benefit/cost. The "time bank" idea makes the accounting situation worse. These companies don't want employees to have vacation stored up. At least not on paper.
 
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Winston Gutkowski wrote:I find it amazing that, in the 21st century, with connectivity as cheap as chips, that most companies still have this incredibly prosaic, 1950's, "bums on seats" attitude when it comes to management. People can't be working unless they're SEEN to be working. Funny how this is still a major divide between middle and upper tiers, who are "trusted" to get a lot of work done on the golf course.



I don't want to work from home because it takes my job into my private place. The downside of this connectivity is that work is always with you. Also for example mobile phones. You have to have them switched on 24 by seven, and the boss can call. Always everywhere connected like the Borg. With the laptops, and work environment at home, you can even do everything from home, and that is being abused. And hence also this unlimited vacation is unlimited work time always and everywhere.. .. unlimited location is even worse than unlimited vacation. I love the fifties attitude. After five o' clock, nobody can reach you, and you have your own life separated from the company. When I am outside the door, I am in my own free zone, not the working slave anymore.
 
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Awarding Jeanne a Cow for a Journal worthy thread. Moo!
 
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Also for example mobile phones. You have to have them switched on 24 by seven, and the boss can call. Always everywhere connected like the Borg.
With the laptops, and work environment at home, you can even do everything from home, and that is being abused



I solved this problem by not having a mobile phone. Old school. I make plans with people ,we meet when and where we are supposed to meet. If someone is late ,you suck it up and wait for them. The boss can't call me at the bar ,dinner or wherever. For me, having to have a mobile phone for a job is a big red flag.

Unlimited vacation, especially the way Branson stated it, is a fake out.
Jeanne's quote of Branson's statement about being "100 percent comfortable…" is scary ,like a threat. Nobody is ever "100 percent comfortable" that they and their teams are up to date and their absence will have no impact on the company. You book flights for a vacation several weeks in advance ,then a a customer has an "emergency" two days before you leave and demands a software modification that will take a week. You are not 100% comfortable on your flight to the Bahamas.

Different teams in the same company have different workloads . It isn't fair that some teams are able to take more time off than another because of workload or inefficiencies in their work patterns ,bosses ,other teams etc….

People should be guaranteed a minimum amount of vacation a year. People in the US take about half the vacation time as people in Europe, yet Europe has not ground to a halt (Greece might be an exception …).


 
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paul nisset wrote:People in the US take about half the vacation time as people in Europe, yet Europe has not ground to a halt (Greece might be an exception …).


Actually, the Greeks work longer hours than most Europeans. According to OECD figures the "annual hours actually worked per worker" in 2013 were 2037 in Greece and only 1388 in Germany. For comparison, the average annual hours were 1788 in the USA, 1669 here in the UK and 1980 in Russia i.e. the Greeks and Russians work around 40% more hours than the Germans. So there is no simple relationship between working hours and productivity. I guess it really is better to "work smarter, not harder".
Prost, Freunde!
 
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Jeanne Boyarsky wrote:Fred,
The accounting benefit works best when the "minimum" is zero. Because then no vacation is counted as an accrued benefit/cost. The "time bank" idea makes the accounting situation worse. These companies don't want employees to have vacation stored up. At least not on paper.


Actually I don't think it's that hard - and we have computers for this kind of thing nowadays!

For example, in my current job I am entitled to 25 vacation days per year, but I can carry up to 10 days forward into the next year. I also have flex-time i.e. I have to work 37 hours per week, but I am reasonably free to choose my start/end times each day. Some places have core hours e.g. 10am to 3pm when you have to be there to ensure staff are available, but I'm usually at work then anyway. Different organisations have different needs for people to be available at certain times (e.g. hospitals, schools, customer service etc), but a lot of companies seem to manage fine with this kind of system.

My workplace has fairly generous rules for flexi-time and vacation, so I can accrue up to 2 days flex-time credit or go 1.5 days in debt each month (previous companies allowed up to +/- one week, but it's hard work clawing back 40 hours of flexi-debt!). I'm entitled to take my flexi credit pretty much whenever I like (within reason - I can't just take 15 minutes of flexi and walk out of a boring meeting!) because I've already worked the hours, so I can take up to 2 days off every month on flexi without even touching my annual vacation allowance. In some circumstances, I might also qualify for paid overtime, which would be paid at more than my regular hourly rate, but the flexi system actually reduces the need for overtime to cover short-term spikes, because it's easy enough to just put the hours on your flexi account or simply take time off the following week instead. I've never received paid overtime in 25 years, because most places I've worked have had some kind of flexi-time arrangement, and I usually just work my regular hours. And I was a freelancer for many years, so I just got paid for the hours I worked anyway.

This system is pretty common in the UK and elsewhere in Europe, and it seems to work pretty well. Because pay entitlement and leave entitlement are tracked separately, and everybody knows the basic leave entitlement in the company, there are no particular problems in accounting etc. The only time that hours in the "time bank" have to be converted into pay is when people leave the company while still being owed some flexi-time or annual leave.
 
Jeanne Boyarsky
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chris webster wrote:

Jeanne Boyarsky wrote:Fred,
The accounting benefit works best when the "minimum" is zero. Because then no vacation is counted as an accrued benefit/cost. The "time bank" idea makes the accounting situation worse. These companies don't want employees to have vacation stored up. At least not on paper.


Actually I don't think it's that hard - and we have computers for this kind of thing nowadays!


Ok fine. Not in bytes either ;).

The accounting problem isn't one of tracking. it's having that debt on the books - the fact that it could be converted into money at some point. That's what companies like Virgin are trying to avoid. If there is no minimum/carryover/bank, they don't owe the employees money when they leave.
 
chris webster
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Jeanne Boyarsky wrote:The accounting problem isn't one of tracking. it's having that debt on the books - the fact that it could be converted into money at some point. That's what companies like Virgin are trying to avoid. If there is no minimum/carryover/bank, they don't owe the employees money when they leave.


But the liability for vacation time is no different form any other liability e.g. most firms don't pay their suppliers for at least 30 days, so they always have some liabilities on their books for work received (goods or services) but not yet paid. We've had double entry book-keeping for about 700 years so there's nothing intrinsically new about this in principle. In any case, most civilised countries have a statutory minimum level of vacation time and usually rules for overtime pay as well, so this kind of liability will still be there. Of course, they could avoid a lot of that by encouraging staff to take their full vacation allowance every year.

On the other hand, if they plan on firing staff in large numbers every year, then maybe you're right that they would want to cut their liabilities to N thousand workers who are all getting fired at once. But I think the real reason companies might be looking at scams like this is that - as Tim mentioned above - they know it will tend to discourage people from taking their full vacation allowance in the first place and encourage them to put in longer hours outside the existing vacation/pay structures. It's another step in turning a right for paid vacation into a privilege granted at the whim of our feudal masters. No reason for us turkeys to vote for Christmas!
 
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I find this to be a fascinating discussion. I'm a European who has relocated to the US. Europeans generally have a pretty relaxed attitude to vacation, Americans have a really uptight attitude. Where I work now (in the US), I get 26 days of PTO butno public holidays and I can carry over 39 days (unlikely, I take plenty of time off). I like not having to take standard public holidays - I can choose whether I work or not.

I actually think Branson's policy is a good one. Several companies have "unlimited vacation" - this is not really anything new, although it certainly isn't common (yet). People generally know what's a "reasonable" amount of vacation and if you take 40 days one year, you might take only 15 days the next. This policy extends trust to employees. It allows flexibility and fairness. It treats employees like adults rather than wage slaves.

If someone takes advantage of the system, of course they'll be fired. If someone doesn't take their due vacation, well that's their problem and all this system does is remove the burden on HR to force that person to take vacation artificially.

When I worked at Macromedia, I had somewhat of a prima donna team assigned to me. One of the team took no vacation at all until they were completely maxed out on accrual. I started getting nastygrams from HR about him. What he wanted was to take all his vacation as a block in the winter every other year so he could go and be a ski bum for three months. I had to fight his cause with HR. He was a very dedicated employee, he was an amazing contributor, but the company policy on vacation was not flexible enough. Other times I had to go to bat for employees who needed a block of vacation early in the year, before they'd accrued enough time off, but took no time off later in the year.

As far as I'm concerned as an employer, I'm happy to give my team any time off they want with no limits (unfortunately I have some limits imposed by HR but I have a lot of flexibility). That makes for happy, productive employees.
 
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A year later, I came across this article. I found it interesting that Kickstarter went back to traditional vacation.
 
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A good read. Nice to see the article's conclusion is that some form of unlimited vacation policy is likely here to stay.

Also interesting to read about Kickstarter reinstating a fixed policy because employees weren't taking enough vacation. I think that speaks to the cultural aspect I hinted at above: US workers tend toward workaholics because of peer pressure (and an overall societal pressure) to "work hard". I've seen a lot of Americans lose track of their work/life balance. I've even fallen into that trap myself since I moved here 16 years ago. Taking "too much" vacation is definitely frowned on here and workplaces seem very "competitive" about it.

I hope that changes. Americans work longer hours and take less vacation than most other Western nations.
 
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I am not sure whether I agree with the "unlimited vacation" idea - however, I do believe that we should work 4 days instead of 5. Instead of having 9 to 5.30 as standard hours, why not have 8.30 to 7 with a 1.5 hour break for staff? I am sure most of us, if not all, have worked 9-10 hours a day on many occasions, it isn't that bad. The working week will simply change from the standard 37.5 hours to 36 hours a week - that's ok!

At the end of the day, a lot of us commute every day. If we are working 4 days, we will save on commuting for 1 day. For some people, this can be between 3-4 hours saved.

Furthermore, I don't know about you, but for me at least, I am usually too tired to do much when I get home after work. It's usually a bit of time on my computer, some reading, some telly - so I really only have 2 days free on the weekend for leisure activities. Now often at least half a day on the weekend is spent running errands and doing chores, and then by 4pm on a Sunday evening, most of the things have closed, so there isn't much you can do! A 3 day weekend however will give us enough time to do the errands and chores we need to do, and still have plenty of time for our leisure activities - plus, if we have more leisure time, we will spend more, so surely it benefits the economy too, right?!
 
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Ahmed Bin S wrote: I am sure most of us, if not all, have worked 9-10 hours a day on many occasions, it isn't that bad.


Yes, I have, but it is that bad. That's way too long to try and keep focus for the entire day. And that doesn't leave enough time for the rest of the day to do much else. I suspect you're not the one who cooks dinner for the family? Four long days such as you describe would mean that I have 4 days a week where I do pretty much nothing but work. No thanks.


 
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A friend of mine negotiated his 40-hour work week to be Mon-Thu, 8am-6pm, so he could always have three day weekends. His argument was basically the same as Ahmed's: with commuting, your regular 9-5 work day means you don't get anything else done (in the morning or evening) so why not just work a couple of extra hours anyway and have a longer weekend. I can see pros and cons, depending on what else is going on in your life.

I no longer commute (everyone at my company works from home full time) so I enjoy waking up at 8:30am, showering, and sitting down at my desk with a coffee at 9am and then being done and free to do whatever I want at 5pm most days. Sure, there are some work days that run over that eight hour stint but there is also a lot of flexibility to run errands for an hour or so during any work day. If I was still commuting three hours a day (not atypical in the Bay Area) then I could definitely see a benefit in working four ten hour days (thirteen including commuting) and getting a longer weekend, especially since it would cut my overall commute time from 15 hours a week to 12 (reducing pollution, stress, wear'n'tear on my car etc).
 
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Bear Bibeault wrote:

Ahmed Bin S wrote: I am sure most of us, if not all, have worked 9-10 hours a day on many occasions, it isn't that bad.


Yes, I have, but it is that bad. That's way too long to try and keep focus for the entire day.



Ok, it's bad for some and not bad for others!

Bear Bibeault wrote:
And that doesn't leave enough time for the rest of the day to do much else. I suspect you're not the one who cooks dinner for the family? Four long days such as you describe would mean that I have 4 days a week where I do pretty much nothing but work. No thanks.



But some of us already don't have enough time left for the rest of the day. So my commute used to be 1.5 hours each way. Because I had to take into account delays, I had to leave home by 7 so that I am in my 9. Then I always had to stay till 6. Now 6 is rush-hour, if I leave at 6, I will probably not get a seat on the train, and will not be home till 7.45-8. So I leave by 7, so that I can at least get a seat. Now I reach home by 8.30ish. I have spent 3 hours commuting, which tires you - my day is basically over. And this isn't just for me, this is true for many, many other people.

I guess if you don't have a commute that takes ages, and are home by 6ish, then great, you still have time to do other things. However, for those of us who have to commute for ages, we don't have the time or energy to do things when we get home.
Maybe companies should be obliged to offer employees the option of working 4 days a week or 5 days a week.
 
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Yes, a long commute does make a difference. I'm fortunate in that, living in Austin, my commute times for the past couple of decades have been been short, and always less than 1/2 hour each way. My current position is similar to Sean's; I work from home most of the time, and only head into the office for Monday and Thursday morning meetings. And, my commute at those times is about 5 minutes.

As such, commute times don't factor into my situation.

My company, by the way, is one with the "unlimited" time policy. I've taken 10 days off in October, and plan to take another couple of weeks off during December: one to visit the in-laws, and one during the holidays.

 
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Ahmed: That seems like an argument for telecommuting rather than a compressed work week. Or a choice of schedule. For some people, a longer day is a problem because express trains stop running.

I work a 4.5 day week. (I get every other Friday off in exchange for working longer either day.) I like it in that I have a focused day to do things - like write. But I have plenty of time after work to do other things even with a 45-50 minute commute. Whether they are going out in NYC or things at home. I often do things "on the way" home though. So I still get home later but I've already done what I wanted to do. I don't work a 10 hour day though even with that.

Bear: Can I ask how the "unlimited" policy works? Do people feel the trust to take vacations? I get that you do, but I suspect you stand up for yourself at work.
 
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Jeanne Boyarsky wrote:Bear: Can I ask how the "unlimited" policy works? Do people feel the trust to take vacations?


I've noticed that other people in the company take vacation time without worry. So far, I haven't had, or heard of, any case where someone either was "shamed" for taking too much vacation. or felt that they could not take time. For the record, I've been with the company since April.

I get that you do, but I suspect you stand up for yourself at work.


Yes, I do. But this company is very different from many others that I've worked for in that the average age of the workers is much higher than the industry standards. Unusually, there are many developers who are even older than I am (imagine that!) and I think that, as a group, us older workers are much less likely to allow ourselves to be taken advantage of.
 
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Jeanne Boyarsky wrote:Ahmed: That seems like an argument for telecommuting rather than a compressed work week. Or a choice of schedule. For some people, a longer day is a problem because express trains stop running.



But quite a lot of companies are against letting their employees work from home.

http://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/working-from-home-yahoo-best-buy-hp-moves

My last company also tried to go the same way - but most of the employees simply ignored it and continued working from home when they didn't need to come in!

I think we should get a choice of a 4-day contract or a 5-day contract, that way, everyone is happy!
 
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