A week of autumnal walks along some of South Devon’s beautiful beaches has left me with the feeling that I want more; more time to spend with my young family, more time to explore the world whilst I am still fit and healthy to do so and, more time for my poor husband who gets up every day before the larks to slog it into the city to put food on the table. It’s the dream – a stable job with a regular income but with the freedom to take holiday when and where you want to and in copious amounts if you so wish. Sounds like a utopia doesn’t it – well some companies are trying it and their employees are more productive and loyal than ever before.
Holidays are often a wake-up call to all the gnawing concerns that your life is not quite as you’d like it or is so regimented into compartmentalised time slots you are considering employing a personal assistant to keep up with it all. You try to book out your two week holiday to overlap with a few bank holidays to keep the holiday allowance from being depleted before you even turn the corner into Easter. Worse still you may be dovetailing your annual vacation with a few sick days so you can make it through.
I recently watched a programme on feral children in which the parents, somewhat admittedly overburdened with more than their fair share of two plus children had decided to ditch the routine of school uniforms, packing PE bags and shoving their children into over-sized classrooms – opting instead to de-register their young darlings out of the rigid confines of what our society aspires to as being the holy grail of education. It was a wake-up call to questioning what it is we do with our time and if age-old systems are as robust and trustworthy as we always consider them to be. Afterall these children, whose supposed only hope to learn to be literate was to be imprisoned into a classroom five days a week – yet they were more articulate, worldly wise and able to read Harry Potter than their neighbours who attended the local school.
Can the same apply to work and having to be there in order to do it? Or could we like Netflix, LinkedIn, HubSpot and others hand over the responsibility of deciding just how much work is required to the employees that have been hired for their expertise to do it – after all, they know the job better than anyone else. So isn’t it time employers said they trust their employees to organise their workloads and time away from work accordingly to suit the job in hand? Of course we’re not talking about buying a round the world ticket, disappearing for half a year and hoping that you can still be paid and treated the same as your work colleague who has dutifully sat at their desk day in and day out, but what we are talking about is being allowed to be treated like a human being and not letting employees sweat over the fact of whether presenteeism is more important than missing their child’s sports day or attending their friend’s wedding because they have already used up their holiday allowance.
Earlier this year, job search specialist, Glassdoor identified a number of employers who all offer their workers unlimited holiday entitlement. Take Netflix, the entertainment company that streams media and video online. It’s a highly successful company whose earnings up to April of this year came in at 40 cents vs. 37 cents per share expected by a Thomson Reuters estimate. So clearly their policy of ample time off doesn’t appear to have any impact on their bottom line.
Now consider LinkedIn, the social media network that connects working professionals. Employees on Glassdoor say of the company, “The culture is a solid representation of what they believe important. Diversity, integrity, and respect whilst continuously being pushed to take responsibility and ownership.” Again they have an uncapped holiday allowance and in April this year their new owner, Microsoft announced that LinkedIn sales hit $975 million in the first full quarter since the acquisition. Revenue is up 6 percent, beating Wall Street’s profit expectations for the quarter ended March 31. Clearly their policy of empowering employees to own their responsibilities to work is also paying off.
So, what can we learn from these forward-thinking companies? Of course, there is something to be said for the fact that they are all in the digital arena and work therefore tends to be of the 24/7 nature with people dipping into and out of work when on their unlimited holiday vacations. Would this bohemian attitude work in the manufacturing sectors, possibly not, it would also be difficult to apply to some public-sector positions but for those where work tends not to have a ‘clocking in and clocking out’ edge to it, the reasons for not applying some leniency to holiday appear to be hard to argue against. The profits of these companies speak for themselves and often it comes down to that little old thing we call ‘respect’ because that is what this boils down to – the trade-off is that you trust me to do my work and manage my time so that is delivered but in turn that means you respect my decision to take more annual leave if I so wish. So, on that note, I’m off to book my next holiday but hope you don’t miss me – but I promise to write my blog even if I am not present in the office to do it!
Author: Annie Hayes
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