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Do we need regulations
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Lotte Bailyn is a professor of management and T. Wilson (1953) Professor of Management, emerita, at MIT’s Sloan School of Management, and
the author of Breaking the Mold (ILR Press, 2006; not available at Costco).
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time sounds terrific: “Wow,
what I could do with that.”
But wait a minute. Really
think about it. I’m sure
my employers don’t mean
that I should never do any
work—after all, that’s what they pay me for. So
what do they mean? How much vacation does it
mean I should take? And my boss—how much
vacation is that person taking?
It’s this ambiguity and uncertainty that is
one of the most difficult things about this policy. Without any guidelines whatsoever, it’s
entirely possible that people will be reluctant
to take any vacation—that, counterintuitively,
the policy would really lead to more work and
less vacation. It presents too much choice for
people, and research shows that too much
choice is actually disadvantageous. Individuals
need guidelines and structures to make intelligent choices.
Already many Americans are not taking
the vacations that are due them. A better policy
might be to insist that everyone takes a two-week, or preferably four-week, vacation,
because getting away from work is important.
It leads not only to necessary rest and relax-
ation, but to more energized, creative and
Respites from work are necessary: We
need to get away to replenish, to get new ideas,
to be more productive. So I would suggest to
companies that want to benefit their employees, as well as to make themselves more productive, they should mandate certain paid
vacation time for everyone, from the CEO to
the lowest service or clerical worker. Providing
unlimited vacation time to a few already privileged employees will only confuse them and
will not create a more productive, well-rested,
The problem is that policies are not context-free. They might work in an environment of
complete respect and trust, where evaluations
are based solely on output and not on time or
accessibility. But how often do we see that?
Yes, employees need more time off to do
their best work, and, yes, companies should
support this because it benefits them as well.
But allowing unlimited vacation time is not the
way to go. It’s too unstructured, too difficult for
employers to implement, and is likely to end
up with everyone playing games and not actu-
ally getting the benefits they need from time
away from work. C
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Mike Volpe is the chief marketing officer of HubSpot (
an inbound marketing and sales software company.
PEOPLE’S lifestyles and
work styles have dramatically changed over the
past 20 years. If companies want to keep employees happy and engaged,
they need to build a
workplace that reflects
the way people live and work today.
One way we did this at HubSpot was by
introducing an unlimited vacation policy. We
realized that evaluating our employees on the
number of days they were physically in the
office was archaic, because most of their work
happens online. They can do their jobs from
almost anywhere today, thanks to tools like
Google Drive and Go ToMeeting.
What matters is that employees are hitting
their goals and producing results. If people
work late nights or long hours on an important
project, they shouldn’t have to get permission
to take a long weekend in return. Employees
who go above and beyond at work deserve a
company that will do the same for them. That’s
why we don’t track anyone’s time off. Instead,
we hire people who are the right culture fit, give
them the autonomy to move the needle on our
business and empower them to decide where,
when and why they take time off.
Most companies think unlimited vacation
policies are ticking time bombs—that if you
give employees the freedom to take a week off
whenever they want you’ll end up with consistently empty desks. The truth is, unlimited
vacation actually makes employees more productive. Instead of spending time and energy
worrying about being away from the office,
employees have the flexibility to build their
own work-life balance. It’s easier to be engaged
at work when you don’t have to stress about
scheduling a doctor’s appointment, picking up
your kids from soccer practice or taking an
extra day off to get a cheaper flight.
At the end of the day, employees today
want to work for companies that trust them,
challenge them and let them create a stress-free
work-life balance. Of course, the output of
some jobs is measured in hours worked, so for
some companies it might not be possible to
give unlimited paid vacation. But every job
should be more flexible today than it was 10
years ago. Every company should embrace culture and technology changes to enable their
employees to mold their jobs to fit their lives.
Your employees will thank you for it by
being more productive and happier, and you’ll
get the benefit of lower turnover and increased