There’s been a lot of chatter recently about Virgin moving towards an unlimited vacation policy. According to Sir Richard Branson in his recent blog post, he got the idea from an article about Netflix, who hasn’t had a vacation policy for the past several years. Basically, employees are free to take time off as they wish as long as their absence will not damage the business. According to the Society for Human Resources about 1% of companies nationwide offered such plans for their employees in 2013.
Back in 2007, when Backblaze started, we thought it would be disingenuous to have a “you get two weeks a year” vacation policy when we were asking people to work for free (sweat equity.) A funny thing happened—people worked, took time when needed and everybody was cool with that. At the time, we were told that our “policy” would never scale as Backblaze grew, but it did. Over time we added healthcare, dental, a 401K plan, and other benefits, all the trappings of a growing company except one—a vacation policy.
So we’ve never had a vacation policy, we still don’t, and we don’t think we want one.
Will such a plan work for you? Here’s a few things we learned along the way:
- Set work expectations with your team as to what needs to be done.
- Tell the team that’s it’s OK to say there’s too much work.
- Request that everyone keep their team informed of what they are doing.
- Provide a shared calendar, so that teams know when someone is going to be out.
- Be happy for your people when they take vacation.
Here at Backblaze, all of our employees know what they need to do. They prioritize their work, keep others informed of what’s going on and get their jobs done. When they need to take a morning off to run an errand or pick up a sick child at school or just to sleep in, they do it. There’s no need to negotiate with your boss as to whether you were on vacation, taking comp time or sick time or whatever. You show up and you and your fellow employees figure out how to get the job done.
As an employer we don’t have to keep track of vacation time or sick time for that matter. That’s right, we don’t have sick days either. Our sick policy is simple, if you’re sick, stay home. We do not have to keep track of things such as “Billy taking 2.75 hours of sick time on Thursday.” Nor do we have worry about how many hours of vacation Zach has accrued. Instead, our administrative resources can do useful things like get the best price for hard drives or plan a company pizza party.
Now before you think unlimited vacation time means everyone here at Backblaze is always on vacation, that’s not the case. To date, no one has abused our lack of a vacation policy. If anything, we have had to occasionally remind people to take a few days off. We all watch out for each other since we are all dependent on each other for Backblaze to succeed. Besides, we want to work with well-rested, happy people, not grumps who haven’t taken a day off in years.
We’re glad the employees at Virgin will soon be enjoying “unlimited vacations.” They’ll enjoy the freedom of being trusted to be responsible to themselves and their employer. It’s a great feeling. Welcome to the club.