Do Employees Really Want Unlimited Vacation?

Richard Branson Virgin

Sir Richard Branson, founder of the multinational Virgin Group, has decided to give his employees as much vacation time as they want. His inspiration? Netflix, which did away with scheduled vacation days in favor of giving its workers all the downtime they need.

“It is left to the employee alone to decide if and when he or she feels like taking a few hours, a day, a week or a month off,” Branson wrote on Virgin’s corporate blog, “the assumption being that they are only going to do it when they feel a hundred per cent comfortable that they and their team are up to date on every project and that their absence will not in any way damage the business.”

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Branson and his executives will roll out their version of the initiative to Virgin’s parent company in the United States and the U.K.; depending on how that goes, they could expand it to subsidiaries at some future point.

Netflix and Virgin aren’t the only companies experimenting with unlimited vacation time: tech firms such as Zynga and Evernote have offered the perk for years. But not all employees greet such policies with enthusiasm. On Glassdoor and other forums, more than a few have complained that ultra-flexible schedules can guilt-trip employees into taking even less vacation, lest they be seen as “slacking” in comparison to their colleagues.

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And despite the tantalizing prospect of limitless vacation, many of those enrolled in such programs find that tight deadlines and demanding production schedules mean they take roughly the same amount of days off as when their paid time off was metered out.

From an employer perspective, unlimited time off for employees can translate into tangible benefits, provided those employees actually leave the office: Exhausted workers are less productive and more prone to illness. With that in mind, many startups now insist that employees use their vacation days—even if those vacation days are limited to 10 or 14 per year.

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Image: Virgin


5 Responses to “Do Employees Really Want Unlimited Vacation?”

September 29, 2014 at 11:24 am, JGalt2k said:

IBM has an “unlimited vacation” plan too; it’s called a “resource action” (“layoff” in non-IBM-speak). They exercise it quite extensively.


September 29, 2014 at 11:33 am, Rob S said:

There is a major benefit to the company to not have to track/log vacation hours. The liability of accumulated vacation becomes a thing of the past. No more tracking when employees reach their MAX levels and no more payouts when employees move on/retire.
We just started such a program where I work and you still have to get your boss’s approval to take the time off so it’s not like you can come and go as you please. And I’m sure most bosses will monitor your usage so that if you take too much time, you get reprimanded, meaning that most employees will likely underestimate the time they can take off, again benefitting the company.


September 30, 2014 at 12:41 pm, emilov said:

In case some may have not heard of yet… this business person is planning for launching a business in space tourism.
Therefore any odd idea that makes free ads for his company is welcome, including unlimited vacation.
I have already “enjoyed” unlimited vacation: few times in unemployment situation that lasted for several months.. without clue when the next job would be available…


October 01, 2014 at 9:39 am, bill said:

I have unlimited vacations. I take a contract, complete it, and then I am on vacation, (rinse, cycle, repeat)


October 02, 2014 at 6:19 pm, Robert said:

i liked the caveat to unlimited vacation:
“the assumption being that they are only going to do it when they feel a hundred per cent comfortable that they and their team are up to date on every project and that their absence will not in any way damage the business.”
what a stupid remark – or – how to get fired.
if you can leave on vacation where your absence will not in any way “damage” the business then you’re irrelevant.
the reason for vacation is because management has a hard time sending folks away to enjoy themselves – it’s all about the business.
just more dribble in the sucking your benefits dry while playing word/semantic/mind games with your employees.


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