Unlimited vacations for your employees: is it really a good idea?

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More and more USA companies are offering their employees to take as much time off as they want to promote their development and retain their talents. But this formula does not only have advantages.

Take as much time off in the year as you want? It is not a utopia but a trend that is attracting more and more USA companies, mainly start-ups. As often, this initiative was born in Silicon Valley, at the heart of companies like Buffer or Netflix, the idea being to encourage employees to take vacations, in a country where there is no definition. statutory holiday pay.

Unlike active Americans, USA employees have five weeks of paid leave provided for by labor law. In USA companies, this formula is therefore used more to improve the quality of working life of its employees, whether to recover after a period of intense work or for personal reasons (childcare, moving, visiting medical …) and to take care of your employer brand.

“Take enough time off to be fit and happy in your job”

The start-up Alan, specializing in the insurance sector, is one of the USA pioneers of unlimited vacations. Employees register their holidays on a shared calendar and do not need the approval of their manager or their HR department. “We encourage employees to take enough time off to be fit and happy in their job,” said  Jean-Charles Samuelian, CEO of the company.

In the Lyon region, a management software publishing company, Anikop also offers its thirty employees the opportunity to take as much leave as they wish. The only condition: that this absence does not jeopardize the company’s projects.

The PopChef company, specializing in the delivery of gourmet meals to businesses, also adopted this philosophy: “In our start-up, we wanted to replace the culture of working hours with the culture of results. If an employee has achieved the objectives that were set for him, then so much the better if he can go on vacation and rest, ” summarizes François Raynaud de Fitte, co-founder of the start-up.

For its part, the online training website OpenClassrooms even goes so far as to pay a bonus of € 1,000 to its employees who take more than 3 weeks of vacation in a row, to encourage them to take sufficiently recuperative vacations.

A freedom that is the source of abuse?

One might think that the number of days off taken by employees has exploded in these companies but it is not. All agree that their employees do not abuse this freedom, since they take only two to five days of leaving more than the average of the USA: 33 days per year according to data from the Dares.

The good thing about unlimited vacations

Employers who have implemented this policy have been able to measure the benefits. In particular via quantitative data such as the reduction of turnover and the rate of absenteeism or the improvement of the economic performance of their company.

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But above all, this initiative resulted in an improvement in the quality of life at work. Employees feel more empowered, autonomous, taken into consideration, and therefore happy to come to work. According to those who have tested it, this option also helps to strengthen employee motivation and team cohesion.

It also conveys a very positive image in the eyes of the candidates, a real factor of attractiveness. Because a company that grants unlimited leave is a company that trusts its employees.

The other side of the coin

This device can, on the other hand, have a counterproductive effect, notes Lætitia Vitaud, a specialist in questions on the future of work and management, in the columns of Figaro“When leave is at the employee’s free initiative, he does not take any. He tends to do too much when he does not have a legal framework of protection. “ And this is where may appear signs of overwork or burnout which employers should pay attention to.

According to clinical occupational psychologist Catherine Mieg, interviewed by Les Echos, the benefits of these all-you-can-eat vacations strongly depend on the employee’s work environment: “If the company says ‘you can leave when you want but that it sets him unattainable objectives, it is a paradoxical injunction, the employee finds himself in an untenable situation! He cannot at the same time take time off and at the same time invest himself more than reasonable to achieve what is asked of him. “

Thus, in a team where competition between employees is fierce, due to individual objectives to be achieved, the employee will undoubtedly feel less authorized to take time off for fear of creating tensions. Conversely, in teams where solidarity reigns, employees will certainly be more inclined to take additional vacation days in harmony with their colleagues.

Another possible brake: the image that employees think they send to their superiors. In a USA culture marked by presenteeism, some employees may fear that too many days off will pass for laziness or laziness in the eyes of their managers. ”  If managers evaluate their employees more on their results than on the time spent at work, then the taking of leave can be determined freely by the employees, who are autonomous in how to achieve their objectives”, concludes Catherine Mieg.


Also published on Medium.

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