Microsoft is joining other tech giants, such as Netflix and LinkedIn, in offering its employees unlimited paid time off, or in their words ‘Discretionary Time Off’.
Starting on 16th January, the Microsoft’s US-based employees (not including its ‘hourly workers) will have an unlimited pool of leave that they can dip into as and when they see fit. This will accompany ‘10 corporate holidays, leaves of absence, sick and mental health time off, and time away for jury duty or bereavement’.
Microsoft is obviously a huge company, but is this something that a small business could viably pull off? Let’s explore this story a little more, and then look at some of the advantages and disadvantages of unlimited paid leave.
Why has Microsoft added this benefit?
Put simply, it’s the post-pandemic favourite of – ‘the way we work has changed’.
As reported by The Verge, Kathleen Hogan, Microsoft’s Chief People Officer, said: “How, when, and where we do our jobs has dramatically changed. And as we’ve transformed, modernizing our vacation policy to a more flexible model was a natural next step.”
So, is this a gimmick or a glimpse into the future of work? To the small business owner, it probably conjures up images of permatanned staff flitting in and out of the office as they see fit.
A city break to New York here. A sun-soaked holiday to Spain there. And all in the space of a few weeks. But delve a little deeper and there are some genuine benefits to be had.
Before we do jump in, it’s important to highlight that unlimited holidays should not be confused with unquestioned leave as and when your team members want it. Leave would still need to be requested and then granted by the management team. Otherwise, there would be times when no one was ever in, such as the festive period.
The advantages of unlimited time off
What a perk
According to research into job perks by Small Business Prices, when UK employees were asked about the benefits that they wanted more than a pay rise, over 26% chose ‘Additional holiday/Sabbatical/Flexible working hours’. That’s more than any other perk.
There’s no doubt about it, ‘unlimited time off’ is an absolute showstopper that will help you keep existing staff and attract new staff. What’s more, the people who are captivated by the charms of bottomless leave are likely to be open-minded and energetic. The type of people who will help your business flourish.
Improved mental health
The mental well-being of your team should be of fundamental importance to you. And time away from work is key to a healthy work-life balance. Just by knowing that they can take leave if necessary will alleviate a lot of stress from your employees’ lives.
A happy and healthy team is not only a productive team, but one that helps nurture a positive company culture. Plus of course, a healthy team means less sick leave (you can plan around scheduled leave, not a luxury that’s afforded to sick leave).
Fed up with the admin involved with managing holidays? By taking away a capped amount of leave, you are also doing away with a large amount of the admin associated with overseeing leave.
No more keeping track of how much leave each person has taken and has left. No more emailing individuals to remind them to take their leave. No more ‘dead December’ where everyone is off as they have had to use up their leave (or you have had to offer to buy back unused leave as you can’t have everyone off at once).
A demonstration of trust
By giving staff members an unlimited amount of leave, you are also showing them that you trust their judgment when it comes to taking leave.
Team members will be more dedicated to getting their work done, as the time they have off hasn’t been earned but instead given as a perk. Whilst you don’t want to harbour a culture of staying behind until work is done, giving your staff a certain level of ownership will help cultivate a more responsible and accountable workforce.
The disadvantages of unlimited time off
Open to abuse
Let’s start at the obvious place. If you introduce an unlimited leave policy, you need to appreciate that it’s a real possibility that you, as a business, could get less work done. The nature of the beast is that people will take more holidays.
So you need to ask yourself, is this something that your business can afford?
People won’t take leave
According to research, 69% of people do not use up their annual leave, with ‘too much work’ often cited as a reason for this.
Unlimited leave could have a detrimental impact on your workforce healthwise, as they have no set amount of days to ‘use up’. Team members who are prone to not taking leave could well end up taking even less holiday, leaving them vulnerable to burnout.
Leave becomes a negative thing
When there’s no benchmark for how much holiday someone should take, your team will start to question what an acceptable amount of holiday is.
People may start feeling guilty about requesting time off, and become fearful that they are being judged whenever they do make a request. What’s more, managers may feel that they simply can’t take leave.
This could all have a negative impact on the mental well-being of your team.
Some team members will take a lot of leave. Some team members will use none. This means that the latter will consistently have to do more work.
For all our talk of how an unlimited leave policy could boost company culture, it could also lead to disharmony amongst team members, as some people will feel aggrieved that they’re consistently taking on another person’s duties.
There you have it, the pros and cons of an unlimited time off policy
So, what do you think? There’s no debating it, offering unlimited leave will get your business attention and attract talent. But when you look beyond the initial benefits, is the price just too high?
We’d love to hear what you think. Would you consider offering this benefit to your business? Let us know with a comment!
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