By Claudine Kapel
It wouldn’t be summer without a poll or two suggesting Canadians aren’t getting enough time away from the office.
Expedia.ca recently published its latest “Vacation Deprivation” study, in which 40 per cent of respondents report they either aren’t getting enough vacation time or aren’t taking all the vacation owed to them.
In fact, 27 per cent report they are carrying over unused vacation time from last year. Being too busy at work and not having enough staff resources to cover responsibilities while away is cited as the number one reason for not making full use of vacation entitlements.
While there are no easy solutions to a staffing crunch, there are ways to make an organization’s paid time off policies more flexible, making it easier for employees to balance work priorities with personal or family needs.
For example, a new benefits study published by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) found 19 per cent of respondents provide employees with the option of cashing out some of their paid time off, and five per cent offer a vacation purchase plan.
More than half of respondents (52 per cent) offer a paid time off plan that combines traditional vacation time, sick leave and personal days into one comprehensive plan. Under this type of plan, “employees have more freedom and flexibility in managing their leave,” notes SHRM.
At the most flexible end of the spectrum, one per cent of respondents said they offer unlimited paid vacation time and one per cent report offering unlimited paid time off.
While offering unlimited vacation days may seem like an impossible dream for most employees, a few organizations are successfully venturing into this uncharted territory.
Dharmesh Shah, co-founder and Chief Technology Officer at HubSpot recently published an opinion piece on his company’s unlimited vacation policy in the New York Times.
Notes Shah: “When I tell people that our company, HubSpot, has an unlimited vacation policy, the inevitable first question is: ‘Gosh, there must be so many people that abuse that policy. Do your employees ever get any work done?’ The reality is: No, people don’t abuse the policy – and yes, they do get work done. If we ever end up with an employee who abuses his or her privileges, I’ll know that we made a hiring mistake. I would rather fix that one mistake than put the burden on everyone else.”
Monitoring and enforcing a vacation policy “takes time, energy and money,” said Shah. “I’d rather have my most talented employees working on innovations that improve my company’s core business than spending valuable time and energy micromanaging their vacation time to fit an archaic policy.”
The reality is that technological advances have dramatically changed how people work – including how, where, and when they get their jobs done. Hand-in-hand with these new ways of managing work, should be new ways for managing paid time off.
While an unlimited vacation policy may go beyond what most organizations are willing to explore today, it does reflect the ideal of a high-trust relationship between employer and employees.
“Our unlimited vacation policy is part of a broader focus on trust in our culture,” notes HubSpot’s Shah. “Hire employees who expect and deserve your trust, and they’ll prove you right.”
Claudine Kapel is principal of Kapel and Associates Inc., a Toronto-based human resources and communications consulting firm specializing in the design and implementation of compensation and total rewards programs. For more information, visit www.kapelandassociates.com.