Why SpinSys Moved To An Unlimited Vacation and Sick Leave Policy
Our new vacation policy is that you have unlimited time off for vacation, provided that you continuously achieve your work goals as set by your team and your manager. You still have to put in a request for time off, get it approved and update the time off calendar. Unlimited does not mean undefined or random days off without notice; just unmetered.
Our sick leave policy is that you can take as much time as you need to tend to your or immediate family sickness. You still record the sick leave on your timesheet. After the first seven days of sick leave, you can continue taking more sick leave but you will have to supply a doctors note.
For the last 18 years, our time off and sick leave policy has been simple: 3 weeks of accrued time off. You could use that for a vacation or to tend to an illness or wellness visits with the doctor. After you gained some tenure, you got an extra week off. You could roll over 40 hours at the end of the year, but anything beyond was simply lost. And the entire time, your paid time off had to be accrued, tracked in your timesheet, paystub, accounting system, umpteen HR databases and spreadsheets and counted on our balance sheet as an unpaid cost to the firm.
As we approach our two decade anniversary, it has become apparent that the leave policy created unhappiness when unused leave was lost at the end of the year. It was restrictive and did not take into account your seniority. Whether you were straight out of college or had twenty years of industry experience, you got the same three weeks when you started work at SpinSys.
Culture Of Trust
The line between work time and free time has definitely blurred for all of us. Like most of you, I respond to email and Slack messages after I get home, and often continue working after dinner. Rather than focusing on the number of hours worked, I focus on accomplishing the companies goals and missions. This includes doing whatever I have to do to ensure that our customers mission is successful.
As part of our goal to create and foster a trust driven work environment, we are changing to an unmetered vacation and sick leave policy.
The spirit behind the policy is that we’re not keeping track of the days employees need or want to take throughout the year.
We trust that you will focus on accomplishing your professional goals, make sure that SpinSys achieves our corporate goals and not rest until our customers have accomplished their mission.
When you need to recharge, we trust that you will work with your manager to schedule time and get some rest and relaxation. Come back to work with a fresh perspective and the ability to solve old problems with renewed enthusiasm.
Unlimited vacation time sounds like it is too good to be true. For the skeptics, it sounds like a trap. Let’s answer some common questions and dispel some myths.
How much time should I take off?
Personally, I like to take off a week in late Spring and a week in mid-Fall. Also some time off around Christmas and the holidays. That has typically worked out to about three weeks for me. Sometimes I have major family events (weddings!) and that takes up another week for international travel. If you have children, your time and vacation schedule will probably be biased towards the middle of summer.
The benefits of such an unlimited vacation policy are: better morale, increased productivity, higher retention, and higher engagement. And no tiresome discussions about banking vacation days, half days, bonus days, and other nonsense.
So plan on starting by taking all your usual vacations with the added bonus of knowing that your vacation days won’t expire at year end if your plans change.
What’s stopping me from taking 200 days off? Or taking off every Friday?
We’ve all been to a lunch buffet, right? Technically speaking, it is unlimited food. But we would never think of just sitting there for a full day and engorge ourselves until nightfall. Nor would we think of stuffing extra food into our pant pockets, on the way out, in case we get the munchies later.
Remember that bit about a trust driven culture?
We trust that you will still get your work done and will strive to professionally grow your career. If the amount of vacation days or the timing gets in the way of achieving the tasks and goals set by your manager, you will find that your vacation requests will be denied.
Will taking time off torpedo my career?
This is not an elaborate trap set up by HR. The only thing HR dislikes is complaints about grouchy co-workers. Feeling overworked and stressed? Please don’t be that grouch. Plan and take some vacation. Come back recharged and help your team meet our customers goals.
Can I still cash out unused vacation time when I leave SpinSys?
No. An unintended consequence of accrued paid time off was that people would skip vacations and bank them with the intention of converting them into cash when they left our employment. Cash payouts were never the intention of this benefit. The intention was that everyone was working at the top of their game and maintained a healthy work life balance.
What is the difference between vacation and sick leave?
Vacation leave is planned, requested and approved. Sick leave is usually unplanned and taken without prior approval. Sick leave also requires a doctor’s note after 7 days (40 hours) of use within a calendar year.