Management Tactic #32: Vacate the Vacation Policy

One of the big perks about my job is that I get a lot of vacation days. If you can believe it, I have too many vacation days. I value days off for travel, family, friends, and writing, but I find myself struggling to use them all.

Which seems crazy, right? Most of you probably find yourselves in the opposite predicament. You wish you had more vacation days. But you and I, we have something in common:

No matter how many vacation days we have, we still have to complete quality work on time.

This is me looking to the future of no vacation policies.

So why do vacation days matter? Your vacation days simply control the amount of time you have to get your work done. If there are 250 business days in the year and you have 50 vacation days, you have to be extremely efficient to get your work done well within 200 days. If you only have 10 vacation days, you have a lot more time to spread out your work. That might lead to an increase in quality, or it might lead to an increase in procrastination.

Either way, why are we letting vacation policies control the way we do work? Why don’t we just do good work, and when we’re done our work, we go on vacation? After all, we’re already taking mini vacations all the time. Maybe it’s a long lunch or you leave early to pick up your kids from school. Or maybe you work a full day until 5:30 and then answer work e-mails for an hour at night at 10:00. If you’re never letting go of work, isn’t the time between 5:30 and 10:00 a mini vacation?

Netflix realized the uselessness of a vacation policy years ago. “We should focus on what people get done, not how many hours or days worked,” they decided (read an article about this here). The article goes on to say that “Netflix’s roughly 600 salaried employees can vacation any time they desire for as long as they want – provided that their managers know where they are and that their work is covered.

Doesn’t that seem right to you? Instead of tagging and tracking employees like birds, trust them to fly free. Judge them on the quality of their work, not how many days they sat behind a desk. (The bird analogy doesn’t apply to the second sentence.)

If you ran your company, how would you approach your vacation policy?