Viewpoint: Employees Should Get Unlimited Vacation

Traditional vacation policies don't reflect the needs and demands of a modern global workforce, argues the chief technology officer and co-founder of HubSpot

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Vacations, by design, are supposed to be a time to relax, rejuvenate and reconnect with your favorite places, people or activities. And yet the process of requesting, approving and tracking vacation at most companies worldwide is anything but relaxing. The system is archaic: employees at all levels “earn” days off by working, regardless of whether they are working 80-hour weeks or 30-hour weeks. After accruing enough vacation to take “time off,” employees either take days off every chance they get, hoard it so that they get a check at the end of their company tenure, or hurry to use vacation days before they expire at the end of the year. Does any of that sound relaxing to you? Me neither.

Over the past few years, the way in which people live and work has changed fundamentally. Employees check e-mail on their smartphones, collaborate on documents from home and complete many of their daily tasks in the cloud. But the vast majority of vacation policies are more like The Flintstones than The Jetsons: they simply don’t reflect the needs and demands of a modern global workforce.

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Our company, HubSpot, does vacation differently. We expect everyone who works here to deliver remarkable results. In return, we offer all our employees, at every level, unlimited vacation and the autonomy to determine when, where and how they take it. This is not an experiment; it’s a long-standing policy built into a broader commitment to our company culture. The truth is that if you hire people who love their work and understand the mission and vision of your company, banking, tracking and paying out unused vacation become a massive waste of time and money. We devote that time, energy and money to our customers, and our company is better off for it.

I’m often asked whether our employees end up taking more or less days than more-traditional companies. We don’t know, because we literally don’t track it. What we do know is that our employees value being able to take last-minute three-day weekends or head out early after handing in a big project and not needing special permission or prior approval to do so. For those of you concerned that HubSpot employees are always on a beach somewhere, I can assure you that’s not the case. By not prescribing when they need to be in the office, we get employees who build their work around their families, hobbies and interests, and we empower them to manage their time to align with their life.

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The potential downside of our policy is that individuals who can work anytime, anywhere will feel that they can’t break away from the rapid pace of a fast-growing company. We address that concern in two ways: First, we hold managers accountable by getting quarterly feedback to ensure employees are getting enough time off. Second, we as executives set the tone with our own behavior. I’m well known for working late into the night and almost never showing up before 11 a.m., while my co-founder is well known for building his schedule around his beloved Red Sox. We are replacing the adversarial relationship between work and life with a collaborative one. Our employees get to optimize their time off in a manner that works for them. We just provide them with the freedom to do so.