Richard Branson has made Virgin Management the latest of a handful of companies to offer employees “unlimited” paid vacation time. The idea is that these companies won’t track your hours as long as you get your work done. Which, as a binge worker, sounds pretty damn great me.
But “beware the implications of unlimited vacation,” warns Bloomberg Businessweek’s Vanessa Wong:
The glow of trust and togetherness that such policies provide could actually make employees less likely to take time off. Already, some 40 percent of American workers don’t use all their paid vacation days. Even away from the office, employees can still choose to be on their BlackBerrys (BBRY) for 168 hours a week (as the device’s marketing materials point out, to every worker’s distress). Abolishing official vacation days also means you can’t trade unused days for cash, or hoard them for 20 years and take a hard-won paid sabbatical before retiring.
Um… what century is Wong living in?
I’m 51 years old and have never stayed in one salaried job long enough to accrue more than two-weeks of paid vacation days a year, let alone hoard them for cash or sabbatical. Wait. I take that back. Last February, on my three-year anniversary at The Stranger, I qualified for a third week of paid vacation for the coming year. I was fired one month later.
And my penchant for job hopping isn’t so abnormal. The average worker today stays at one job for a median of 4.4 years—for Millennials, half that. So a national paid vacation standard that starts at two weeks and is tied to length of tenure ends up being cruel, counterproductive, and downright stupid. This is a policy that inevitably leads to burnout while distorting the labor market by punishing workers for switching jobs.
So I’m all for any policy that helps shake up America’s draconian attitude toward vacation days.