Tech Companies Institute Unlimited Vacation Days

What if your employer offered unlimited vacation days? Better yet, paid you to go on vacation?

Technology companies are paving the way for greater employee freedom when it comes to taking time off from work.

Bloomberg Businessweek reports that companies ranging from small tech start-ups to established brands like Best Buy and Netflix are beginning to offer unlimited vacation programs for their workers. Employees are still expected to complete all of their work in a timely fashion, but the programs mean more flexibility for workers when it comes to managing their own schedules.

The unlimited program seems to be a win-win: Managers don’t have to spend their time monitoring their staff, the company attracts better talent, the workforce is more productive and there is less turnover overall.

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But, are companies banking on employees not taking advantage of the unlimited vacation days?

Statistics about the American workforce show that over half of workers won’t take advantage of all of the vacation days allotted to them. That certainly adds up: Americans on average will give up 226 million vacation days each year, amounting to $34.3 billion in forfeited salary. Whether it’s because employees seek a competitive edge or feel they will fall behind, using up vacation days seems to be the exception, not the rule.

But the clever companies instituting the unlimited programs are aware of this fact, and are taking steps to correct it. The technology company Evernote shells out a $1,000 check for any employee taking a week-long vacation (with proof of an airline ticket, of course).

“Our employees are better after they have traveled,” Phil Libin, the CEO of Evernote, told Businessweek. “They are more productive; they are more useful to the company.”

Paying your employees to go on vacation?! That sounds too good to be true.

But it turns out, employee happiness and independence is a worthy investment. Google’s  “20% time,” where employees can work on any Google-related projects that might interest them for 20% of their workday, has produced some of the company’s best features. Gmail, for example, wouldn’t exist without it. Plus, it keeps employees interested and engaged in their work.

We’ve discussed how burnout is a serious issue facing the workforce, especially female workers. Anne-Marie Slaughter’s article about why women still can’t have it all and Marissa Mayer’s decision to work through her maternity leave as Yahoo’s new CEO have both sparked debate about whether work-life balance can exist.

It’s certainly still a work in progress. But when taking vacation becomes the norm, balance might be next.