At Netflix, named one of the world’s best employers by Forbes, employees are offered unlimited holidays – just one of the many perks of working for the streaming giant.
This might seem like a pipedream for many of us, but endless paid time off is becoming a popular perk among start-ups and high-profile firms.
In the mid-90s, companies including IBM began to scrap traditional annual leave policies and instead let staff take as many holidays as they wanted. Fast-forward to 2019 and a number of start-ups and high-profile firms have jumped on the bandwagon, including Kronos, Songkick, Glassdoor and the Virgin Group.
At Netflix, the holiday policy is simple. Salaried employees can take as much time off as they like. Their days aren’t tracked – so it’s up to them to decide how much time they need or want off.
From an employee perspective, an unrestricted holiday allowance is the ultimate perk. Having control over your time off is believed to make workers happier and help them create a better work-life balance, giving them more flexibility over when they take a well-earned break from the workplace.
Unlimited paid time off is also thought to be beneficial for businesses too, despite fears over workers disappearing for three-month trips abroad. These kind of policies are thought to make staff more productive and reduce stress from overwork, helping companies attract and retain skilled employees.
And when workers are entrusted by their employers to make their own decisions, it is also believed to help foster a positive working environment.
However, a number of problems are associated with unlimited time off – and it may seem like more of a bonus than it actually is.
When the software firm CharlieHR was founded in 2015, every employee received unlimited, fully-paid holiday days, no matter what role they filled. Yet last year, chief operating officer and co-founder Ben Gateley announced the policy was being scrapped.
One key reason was that staff were simply not taking the time off they were entitled to. “Putting a numerical limit on holiday time has a counterintuitive effect,” Gateley explained in a blog post on the company’s website.
“If you are given 25 days holiday that are yours to take, then you are subconsciously motivated to take them. It’s some kind of psychological quirk of ownership – when something belongs to you, then you immediately value it far more highly.
“Whereas the lack of a number – the very concept of unlimited – potentially meant you didn’t value that holiday time in the same way.”