Unlimited Paid Time Off Can Be a Blessing, a Curse or Just a DisasterFebruary 13, 2015 - By: WorkSmart
Our very own HR director, Jason Carney, was featured on MainStreet.com shedding light on how potential employees and employers can wrap their heads around a successful PTO policy. Carney points out that paid time off is also a response to the increased percentage of workers telecommuting or freelancing.
The article was original seen in the news section on Mainstreet.com. Click here to view the original article or read on below!
Unlimited paid time off is becoming more and more popular. Especially in the tech industry, more companies are following Netflix’s lead and not tracking how much time their employees take off. However, unlimited paid time off is a double-edged sword at best. So if you’re interviewing at a firm with unlimited paid time off, how do you make sure you’re getting a good deal instead of the shaft?
What Is Unlimited Paid Time Off?
Unlimited paid time off is more or less exactly what it sounds like: you can take off as much time as you want. This is partly in response to the fact that many companies don’t track how many hours in a week employees work. Employees get paid a salary, which remains static whether they work 40 or 60 hours in a week.
“The theory is that the company isn’t monitoring how much time someone works,” says Doug Schade, principal consultant in the software technology search department at WinterWyman. “So why are they tracking how much time you’re not working?” He notes that the first company he ever heard of giving unlimited paid time off was Netflix.
Jason Carney, HR director of WorkSmart Systems, Inc. points, out that unlimited paid time off is also a response to the increased percentage of workers telecommuting or freelancing.
“With unlimited paid time off you’re accountable for your work whether you do it in the office or on a beach in Florida,” Carney said.
Sounds almost too good to be true. Is it?
When Unlimited Time Off Isn’t Actually a Benefit
“It’s kind of silly on the face of it,” says Carney, who notes that a lot of times this can be used so that you get no paid time off. “The typical company policy has a number of different kinds of paid time off,” he says, “you either get these in a lump or accrue them based on the amount of service.” Unlimited paid time off “throws that out the window.”
“It works really well in certain industries and demographics,” Carney says, “but mostly for certain personality types.” The problem is two fold: on the one hand, not every employee can handle the unlimited paid time off set up. Some take too much advantage of a good thing, and their performance ends up suffering in ways it wouldn’t if they had more traditional time off policies. On the other hand, there are workplaces where employees end up never taking any time off, because the company culture doesn’t lend itself to a lot of flex time.
“The company might not be keeping track,” says Carney, “but let’s not kid ourselves, there’s always some level of approval.” Even if no one is “officially” tracking paid time off, he notes that you still have to deal with competitors in and out of your department.
“This leads to a situation where other employees are calling you out on taking too much time off because they’re not taking any,” Carney says.
Can Unlimited Paid Time Off Be a Great Boon?
“If you’ve created a company where it’s exercised and people are backed up and don’t have to twist arms to get time off it can be a great benefit,” says Schade. He says that anecdotally he’s heard about it being a great benefit and a total disaster. He also stresses that because the policy is such a new development, we don’t really have a lot of hard data on the subject.
So if you’re interviewing at a company with an unlimited paid time off policy, how do you know if it’s a good place to work? Schade says the big question is “What are people doing with their unlimited time off?” A place where people are actually utilizing their unlimited time off will have lots of stories about cool things people are doing on sabbatical. A company that has no such stories probably has more problems than just its time off policy.
Schade believes that the issue isn’t the paid time off policy. Rather, it’s the policies erected around the policies that matter. You want to make sure that it’s easy to get the time off you need. While there are no clear-cut examples of what is “good” and “bad” about the policy as of yet, just asking what people are doing with all of this time will shed some light on the subject. Some companies offer bonuses to employees who take at least one week off a year.
“Most companies are looking at this as a good thing,” he says. “They’re not trying to trick you into being chained to your desk.”