Unlimited vacation for everyone

When I first headed out on my own, one of the common responses I would get to my incessant bragging was “Wow. Getting to work on your own schedule. That’s like having unlimited vacation.”

Yes, that’s true. It is like having unlimited vacation. But if I don’t get my work done, I don’t get paid.

Which got me to thinking…

Why should vacation at any job be a benefit? Shouldn’t we all have unlimited vacation, no matter where we work?

I can feel your eyebrow raising. Lower the eyebrow for a second. And let’s step back a moment.

First, let be completely open: I’m not much of a vacation guy. I like the vacations when I’m on them. I’m just not so good at taking the vacation. I tend to blame this on my being the descendant of a long genealogy of coal miners.

That said, I’ve always been impressed with my close acquaintances who take full advantage of vacation. Every last minute. I don’t hold it against them that I’m not taking mine. I’m impressed that they can figure out how to do it. Not me. I don’t do so well.

But even those folks who take every last minute could probably use some more. And maybe they would be even better workers if they got some more.

You see, here’s the thing: Vacation is not a benefit.

Everyone needs vacations or they will go insane. This was established not-so-long ago, coming on the heels of the 5-day work week and the 8-hour day. All recent constructs.

But, today, vacation is something that has been co-opted by the business as a means of controlling its employees. And it has been spun into a promotional vehicle for attracting talent.

But don’t fool yourself. Vacation is a control established by the business.

Vacation is no more a benefit than crack is a medicine. Vacation is a construct that allows the business to hire sub-par employees who may try to take advantage of the company should they not be controlled by a requirement to be at the company for a certain amount of time. It also allows the company to pay less for a given position, because of the existence of said vacation benefit.

(The workday is a similar co-opted construct, but I digress.)

“But I get more than vacation. I get flex time. My business gives me 4 weeks of flex time per year. So there!”

Blah blah blah. No, brainwashee, that is not what you get. What you get is your company obligating you to work for them 48 weeks out of the year. It’s not about how much time you get. It’s about how much time they require you to work to give them the effort that equates to your yearly take-home.

Ah, effort. Hold that thought while I address another whine.

“But with unlimited vacation, Billy will just slack off and take off for three-weeks at a time!”

Will he? Then maybe Billy shouldn’t be working for your company. Maybe it’s time for Billy to go. Maybe we’ve just given Billy enough rope with which to hang himself. Billy is now accountable. Not for spending his vacation days, but for delivering a result.

Better yet, maybe you should be asking the question about the work Billy is completing. If Billy is able to do his job–his entire job, his full-time job–at part-time, maybe it’s not a full-time job. Maybe Billy needs more challenges. Maybe something is rotten in Denmark.

Again, effort. The true gauge should be the following somewhat rudely contrived syllogism:

  1. A certain result has a certain amount of value to the business.
  2. Billy is capable of achieving said result.
  3. Billy is worth a certain amount of value to the business.

That’s it.

So how do you get there?

  1. Establish a goal, a result.
  2. Place a value on the achievement of that goal.
  3. Find an employee who wants to achieve that goal for that value.

Seems pretty straightforward. But it’s not. It’s hard.

Whoa, Nelly. Let me see if I can wend my way back along the tangential path I’ve taken to get back to my point.

Vacation is a control. Taking the control out of the company’s hands and putting it in the employee’s hands results in a drastic change of perspective. It’s no longer, “Have I used all of my vacation?” Instead, it becomes, “Am I getting my work done to a level that satisfies both me and the company?”

And that is a far more interesting, challenging, and passionate question.

Come work for my company, and I’ll give you unlimited vacation. Or just disagree with me. Either way.

About Rick Turoczy

More than mildly obsessed with the Portland startup community. Founder and editor at Silicon Florist. Cofounder and general manager at PIE. Follow me on Twitter: @turoczy
This entry was posted in Accountability, Career, Corporate Culture, Value. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Unlimited vacation for everyone

  1. Pingback: Simplicity Rules » Always on vacation (or never taking a break)

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