40 Days a Year

It’s been a while since I covered anything related to Paid-Time-Off (PTO) in this blog. More than 4 years to be a bit more precise. Mostly because the PTO debate has somewhat stagnated.

As evidence suggesting that “unlimited PTO” policies result in employees not taking enough time off started mounting, most companies simply defaulted to the tried and true old PTO allowances regime.

An interesting challenge with that approach is how to set fair PTO allowances across countries, where each country has its own mandated amount of national holidays.

This is another case of navigating a fairness polarity, similar to the one I covered here with regards to compensation. One pole pushes us to set policies that are fair across our employee base, “internal fairness” if you will. While another pole pushes us to set policies that are fair compared to the local market, “external fairness” if you will.

Most companies tend to go with a solution closer to the “external fairness” pole, setting a PTO policy that consists of the national holidays mandated by that country (or is considered to be the industry’s norm) + an additional PTO allowance based on industry norm in that country.

Doist, a 60-person company with employees in 26 countries, decided to go a different route, with a solution closer to the “internal fairness” pole:

A vacation policy built for a new age: 40 days off to use as you choose

The gist is very simple: every employee, regardless of country of residence gets a total of 40 days PTO a year. That allowance includes national holidays, so if an employee plans to not work during a national holiday in her country (a practice that is heavily encouraged) she needs to take a PTO day for it. This ensures, that whatever the number of days off a year the company deemed to be the healthy amount, all employees are able to take it.

One org design element that works for Doist’s advantage in this case and will likely create a challenging wrinkle in implementing this policy in other companies, is that Doist does not have any offices. This means that its staff can work whenever they please. They are not dependent on an office team that needs to operate the office while they’re there, or a building that needs to be open. However, while this is certainly a challenging hurdle, it does not seem to be an insurmountable one with some modest policy tweaks.