Great piece. However, when you write that unlimited vacation is not a “culture hack to push people towards martyrdom” — I disagree. Though I’ve never experienced the phenomenon myself, I believe that unlimited vacation is a way to weed out the undesirables and, at the same time, load the work on to the busiest (ie the most guilt-ridden, insecure) staff.
This will always be the way in almost any organization — those riding high at the top (the very top) will already have unlimited holidays (more or less) and those desperately floundering around in the middle and bottom (pretty much everyone) will be too scared to take holidays. There’ll be a confident few who will take too much and chuck their work at the busiest, who will eventually have to have an ‘enforced vacation’ via stress, anxiety, illness or depression.
If we could trust the motivations of those delivering the ‘unlimited vacation’, then it’s a fine idea — but we can’t. Ultimately, it’s like offering unlimited food to hungry kids and then subtly weeding out any who put on a bit of weight.
Everything is done in the interest of the company, not the employee. Always.