Unlimited Vacation: a Blessing or a Curse?

Flexible work environments sound dreamy—but in practice...
By Sarah Whitmire,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 23, 2011 11:00 AM CDT
Open-ended time off has helped Netflix employees work harder in the office.   (Shutterstock)

(Newser) – Unlimited vacation time: It sounds like a major fringe benefit. What just a few companies started enticing employees with in the '90s has gathered steam in recent years. But is the open-ended approach—in which workers have no set number of days they're restricted to but generally have to get their time off OKed and make sure their work is covered while they're gone—all it's cracked up to be? The Wall Street Journal takes a look. A rep for Netflix, which has such a policy, estimates that employees have bumped up their average yearly vacation time since it switched to an unlimited plan; taking 3 to 5 weeks off is the norm.

But he admits that "people are on all the time," checking in even while on vacation. Others echo that experience, especially in the current lean-and-mean environment. "You're always kind of stressed," says one Bostonian who had unlimited time at his last employer, "not only because you'll have a tremendous amount of work when you return, but because you worry about holding back other members of the team." But some companies are getting really creative: financial-services company Motley Fool draws a name at its monthly meeting of all 250 employees. That employee has to take two consecutive weeks off the following month, then tell the group all about it upon returning.

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