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Three Vacation Policies (xaprb.com)
31 points by vinnyglennon 51 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 45 comments

The RAND Corporation studied their own 2000 academic quality statisticians and researchers, and they found that even with generous vacation time (through the traditional accrued vacation days practice), most researchers were so engrossed in their work that they still didn't take their vacation.

They then analyzed their people and found that those who did take their vacation performed better than those who didn't.

Subsequently, they wanted to figure out how to incentivize people to take vacation, so they instituted sabbatical pay. Specifically, they pay employees a bonus to take vacation.

In contrast, I work at a startup with unlimited vacation, and plenty of employees are at risk of burnout because they rarely take their vacation -- ultimately hurting the company along with themselves.

In the financial sector, vacation is a fraud control. Reshuffling job duties makes it easier for others to discover your misconduct, and temporarily suspending your access makes it harder for you to cover it up.

it would seem this would mostly only work if the vacation was imposed randomly. otherwise you have plenty of time to plan it.

Even limiting the scope to things that can be covered up with some lead time is a benefit.

My mother worked in banking, and was required to take a consecutive two week block of vacation. I believe the idea was that any fishy financial sruff would likely come up during such an extended time off.

LinkedIn does this and it is great. Christmas week and July 4th week, the majority of the company shuts down.

This is addition to "unlimited" vacation. I don't tend to account for the shutdowns as coming out of my mental pool of vacation time that I like to take every year.

What people don't usually realise though, is that a shutdowns is very refreshing because you are not missing decisions and meetings etc. It means you can truly disconnect for 2 weeks. When vacationing at other times, the business it leaping forward and like it or not there is a draw to keep a finger on it.

One of the issues with 'unlimited' vacation is that when you leave your employment you don't have any carryover anymore so the company doesn't pay you for unused vacation.

that's a design goal - not taking vacation is an intended (not unintended as this article claimed) byproduct.

I know this because my wife worked at a "unlimited time off" company, and even though she gave them a heads up before accepting that she took a month or more vacation a year, when she did that they turned around and had an all hands about it was being abused.

My opinion on unlimited time off: if I can't say "I'm taking a year long vacation" you need to give a finite limit. Nom company would agree to this because unlimited time off is deliberately to avoid liability for earned income.

I’m not sure it’s an “issue” but it’s certainly the case that in situations where employees move around on the order of 12 months or so, such policies will tend to reduce salaries a bit.

I’m not against untracked time but it needs to be implemented in concert with hard minimums and a culture that is accepting of people taking time off.

This was addressed in the article I think

> What about the person who heard your explanation of “just get your work done” as “if you’re highly productive, this is a part-time job with full-time pay?”

What about them. Maybe they are highly productive because they are "part-time"?

Sounds like a good problem to have to me.

One problem is that such people will the occasionally not get the job done, but have committed fully to the “part time” part, so they’ll continue a low effort schedule but not hit the targets. Other times they’ll get their parts done but be really har to get a hold of for other employees which might impede them. Sometimes you’ll just have issues with other employees being angry that they seemingly make the same but put in a lot more effort which tanks the moral of all the other employees. Tons of other issues come up.

It really shouldn’t be difficult to grasp that a full time employee working only part time is a problem, even if they are talented.

> One problem is that such people will the occasionally not get the job done, but have committed fully to the “part time” part, so they’ll continue a low effort schedule but not hit the targets.

If they weren't highly productive, they'd work the 40 hours and not meet their targets. Seems like the same situation except manager wants a butt in a seat.

> Other times they’ll get their parts done but be really har to get a hold of for other employees which might impede them.

Then they aren't really getting them done. There should be docs and enough information for someone else to interact and build off their work. The sync culture of butts in seats promotes high levels of tribal knowledge and over the mid to long run hurts velocity.

> Sometimes you’ll just have issues with other employees being angry that they seemingly make the same but put in a lot more effort which tanks the moral of all the other employees.

I gotta say, too bad for them. This comes from a butts in seats culture, which will drag everyone down to be the lowest common denominator.

You'll have a department where you have 90% normal devs, and 10% high productivity (per hour) devs. Force those 10% to be butts in seat and they are gonna go somewhere else.

Or browse hacker news all day. :)

Agree. Are you hiring to get work done, or to warm your office chairs for a set amount of time?

Presumably you sought out and paid the premium for a highly capable employee because you wanted their above-average capabilities. If they're just going to meet the baseline and go home, the employer is wasting time and money relative to someone cheaper and easier to find.

If the company hired a highly capable employee by accident, or the employee deliberately took a low-salary low-expectation position to "coast" in, then maybe this line of reasoning holds up.

Well, the manager sets the targets. If the employee is above average, just increase their targets.

Point is, there's always something else they could be doing/improving/creating/testing/helping with

Unless their brain is only working 4-6 hours a day and after that they won't make much of a contribution.

I feel like my point is, if you're gonna want hourly work, pay for hourly work.

Take this scenario, I'm a highly productive dev. I work 5 hours a day and I'm burnt. But my manager makes my sit my butt in a seat for 8 hours. "Fine, whatever" I say.

Now crunch time comes and I'm pushing hard to 10 or more hours a day. I'm going to look back at the wasted time before in my seat with resentment. Because it's expected of me to give you more hours than my alotted 40 when the time comes, but when it's light I don't get to take that back.

Exactly this, do you want 4 hours a day of really productive time or 8 hours of moderately productive time?

I only have so much active problem solving per day. I can spend it all quickly then go do something recharging or sit around forcing focus and resenting the fact that I have to look busy for 8 hours a day.

In software, productivity is really, really, really hard to measure. I realize this is an unpopular opinion, but I think employers are absolutely right to be skeptical of arguments that claim a 30-hour-a-week developer is as useful as that same developer full time.

Ok, so how would "forced time off" be the middle ground between unlimited time off and tracked time off. Isn't "forced time off" just tracked time off but they require you to take it?

The only problem it solves is burned out employees, and I would argue that it doesn't even fix that problem. The reason is that you can't force people to take their minds off work, even if you force them to not physically be at work.

Sometimes key employees need to be reminded to schedule a real get away vacation. It should be part of the Managment 101 mentioned in the article.

This seems like a non problem to me.

It could be done as a minimum vacation policy, instead of a maximum vacation? As in, you must take this many days off, but if you need more they're available?

I've seen it done as a "maximum accrued vacation time" policy. Once you got 30 days accrued, you had to book enough time off to reduce it to less than 30 days within the next three months.

Everybody hated that too. Being forced to take time off when you didn't particularly want to, and not being able to "save up" enough vacation for a really good ling trip away...

And, of course, those rules were regularly "bent" when it suited management, but rigidly enforced otherwise...

(We typically accrue 20 days per year here in .au, so that pretty much means after 18 months, if you haven't taken any vacation at all yet, you need to take at least a week off in the next three months, and a week off every three months thereafter.)

That's how it works at my current employer. We're required to take all but X number of days per year. Supervisors are allowed to generously authorize paid work from home as well.

Japan kind of has this. Golden Week in May, Obon in the summer and New Year's leave are all mandatory days off for the vast majority of employees. These are the peak leisure travel times for Japanese people, because everything is closed.

As Japanese workers are famous for not using all their paid leave, and if they do it is in half days here, this is a nationally mandated way to make sure that everyone gets at least a few days off a year.

I'm a fan of unlimited vacation because I don't have to track it on the B/S but the "people think that means they shouldn't take any" problem is real!

Worse, I had a candidate whose wife was worried that was what it really meant (games industry, horrible QoL in most cases). Luckily he brought it up that way, and as this was an internal referral we had her call people she knew already in the company to verify that we weren't jerks.

I don't know, in theory it sounds fine, but I really don't know how much I'd take.

But coordinating with family, stuff that comes up and so on.. this is the first year I've not spent 3 days from my (not unusual for Germany) 28 days from last year and have to take them before the end of March so they don't get lost... In other years I had 30 and could've easily used 10 more.

TLDR: I prefer the German model of 24-33 days and you're encouraged to take them. Wouldn't hurt to increase the number, as long as they're really taken 90% of the time.

The benefit of unlimited for employees is less the long vacations, but the ad hoc needs for the off due to kid being sick, yourself being sick, etc.

That would better be covered by unlimited sick leave. Which, for example, Germany has. Sick leave is covered to some extend (70% up to 30 days, fully afterwards) by the health insurance. There's a clear separation between sick leave and holidays, the first is a medical need, the second is for recreation. (which leads to the interesting case that you can call in sick during your holidays and get the days back)

Folding sick leave and holidays together is weird IMHO, as you personally don't control the first, but do control the second.

Just having undifferentiated “paid time off” means you don’t have to look into the employee’s personal life. It preserves your colleague’s privacy, has fewer bureaucratic entities involved (insurance co, HR, usv) and you don’t get into any argument about the legitimacy of an illness.

If people aren't taking enough vacation, your company's culture is shit. They are afraid they will lose their jobs. Unlimited vacation is bullshit. A European might expect to take six weeks while your shitty company expects them to take two. Those differences cannot be resolved and eventually someone will get fired. It should be illegal to claim unlimited vacation unless one could literally be on vacation 100% of the time. Corporate assholes who coined this term and put such practices into existence should go fuck themselves. It's only there to look good on paper and save the company having to pay out vacation. Once again, American workers getting fucked over so their bosses can save a little money. In the long run, however, it's the business that gets fucked by burnt out, unmotivated employees. Deservedly so considering the scum who run most businesses. Those morons can't even see they are shooting themselves as well as everyone else in the foot. Such stupidity is the norm rather than the exception.

I'm in favor of treating workers better as much as anyone, but I'm dubious about claims that European-style pro-worker policies are actually better for the bottom line. The US has higher productivity than most EU states. Given broadly similar capital and infrastructure, it would seem at least some of this gap is due to people being more afraid to lose their jobs in the US than in the EU.

Not only that, but couching pro-worker policies in terms of benefits for ownership obscures the issue, and implicitly makes the argument that we should only have pro-worker policies when they are also pro-ownership. That's nonsense, since there are millions and millions of workers and we ostensibly have a democracy.

Most but not all EU states. And many other EU states are very close to US productivity while they're working less http://time.com/4621185/worker-productivity-countries/ So threatening worker's lives and not having a single day of vacation or sick time are clearly not the reason for higher productivity. They're just there to make people's lives more miserable and continue a culture obsessed with control and enslavement. Anyway, productivity only matters to business owners. Workers couldn't give a shit. They just can't get their concerns addressed because we live in a plutocratic oligarchy which hardly qualifies as a democracy.

Yes, this was exactly my point. We shouldn't care about productivity: we want affordable childcare, as much sick time as a doctor tells us to take, and guaranteed vacations. Making the argument that ownership should give us these things because it will make them richer is a losing game. They should be forced to give us these things because we want them, and we're the ones in charge.

I totally agree with everything except the part where "we're the ones in charge." Popular support for things like national healthcare and time off hasn't yet made those things happen. As long as representatives take money from the rich, it's dishonest to say that regular people have a say in a republic like ours. By the rich, for the rich is more like it. Even the Supreme Court agrees. What chance does popular support have against billions of dollars spent on corruption... Oops I meant lobbying. Like there's a difference.

European perspective: Of my legally mandated 4 wks of vacation, I have to take at least one consecutive two-week chunk.

Obviously, I as the employee have to put in the request for that, and it 100% depends on the company if they actually care enough about labor laws to force/enable me to do so.

Similar in Norway, where there are times of the year companies basically shutdown or run on minimal staff. In Norway this is July, Italy has similar for August.

But ultimately I think it's culture as much as policies. The US, and lesser extent the UK, has a culture of submitting to work over life (as do other countries, so not singling out the US or UK here). In the UK I had to nag people to take holidays and there was usually a holiday crunch at the end of the year when lots of people took time of just because they had to.

Whereas, living in Norway now, the Scandinavian ethic of maintaining a good work/life balance means there's not really a problem of people not using all their holidays. Or work much overtime either.

Really? Which country mandates that? Or do you mean it's employer-mandated?

This is Switzerland and part of the OR ("Obligationenrecht"), §329c, paragraph 1 [0]

[0] https://www.admin.ch/opc/en/classified-compilation/19110009/...

The law in Germany pretty much states the same.

Don't forget that regardless of your other vacation policies, people in finance should be required to take multi-week vacations each year, at different times each year.

How do you handle the person who’s taking a lot more time off than others?

I don't understand miscommunications like this between employer and employee.

I think the employer needs a more specific solution than "unlimited vacation" if the concern about fixed-allowance leave was a lack of flexibility for shit-happens situations.

I'd be curious about "compensated for work done".

Not taking paid vacation you're allowed to take is so weird. I mean, it's like not taking your whole paycheck and leaving it to your employer.

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