In this month’s Financial Times column, MOVE Guides' CEO and founder, Brynne Herbert and Mrs MoneyPenny shared their insights on whether offering a policy of unlimited holiday creates a healthy work life balance for employees. Read the full article in the Financial Times.
As Brynne's article states, today’s modern workforce is no longer driven by a rigid 9-5 structure. In a world of constant connectively, how do companies expect employees to track holiday when they can respond to emails at 10 pm, join conference calls from anywhere and manage all assignments in the cloud? She argues that providing employees with unlimited holiday is the type of non-policy that employers need to keep employees engaged and happy.
FT also asked readers what they thought about unlimited holiday policy, and 50% agreed that it was a good idea and that flexibility and trust make employees feel valued.
See below to read the full article on why she argues that work/life integration has become the new work/life balance.
Limitless work divides generations
Brynne Herbert and Mrs Moneypenny
16 April 2015
Patty McCord, otherwise known as the anti-HR HR mind, is the person behind Netflix’s revolutionary Culture Deck, which Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg called the most important document ever to come out of Silicon Valley.
Ms McCord, who has left Netflix and started her own consultancy, believes in hiring “fully formed adults” — which by definition means they do not need policies for holidays or expenses. Rather, they are responsible for balancing their work and personal obligations through a policy of unlimited holiday.
Revolutionary as unlimited holiday may seem, it strikes me as exactly the anti-policy we need today. When I worked in finance years ago, we always talked about how time should be split between work and family. Should bosses respect time outside work? How can you squeeze the most out of 20 vacation days?
We have moved from a world of work/life balance to a world of work/life integration. Gone are the days of email-free weekends and working only at the office. Employers and employees expect more fluid and flexible working hours and constant connectivity. Why do we need to count holiday when we expect our employees to dial into important conference calls while off? Do we need employees in the office 9 to 5 if we expect email responses at 10pm?
Companies today must not only integrate work and life, and embrace flexible and remote working. They also need to take into account the varying life stages employees go through during their careers.
A rock star vice-president needs a break? Great — he can work from a beach in California attending meetings via video and coming in when needed. A family wants to spend August in France? Sure — the strategy deck can be written from Provence as easily as it can from the office.
Companies around the world are looking at how to engage employees better. Recent research from Gallup shows that just 31.5 per cent of American workers are engaged in their jobs.
For me, engaged employees are those who value their organisation and feel valued by their organisation. It is the point at which employees contribute discretionary effort. The way to make employees feel valued is through trusting them and giving them flexibility.
What could make you feel more valuable than an employer who trusts you as an adult to take holiday as you wish and get your work done as you see fit?
Brynne Herbert, a millennial, is the founder and chief executive of Move Guides, a tech start-up that helps companies relocate staff globally
Unlimited holiday? It is an interesting idea that I suspect works well for a tech start-up whose workforce is predominantly male and under 30.
Working mothers, with a suitcase load of guilt and a tendency to overcompensate on the work front (and the home front come to that), may not welcome it as enthusiastically.
The concept of letting people work from anywhere at any time flies in the face of what research suggests is effective. Firstly, on diversity, a “non-policy” such as this is likely to attract people who have the same approach. This is fine if you want a company of clones.
Secondly, there is the importance of true downtime. Being “always on” is not thought to be good for the human brain. Current management thinking suggests that periods of complete rest are important to encourage creativity and innovative thinking.
Don’t believe me? Look at the 2009 study published by Leslie Perlow and her colleagues at the Harvard Business School. It found that when the assumption that everyone needs to be always available was collectively challenged, not only could individuals take proper time off, but their work benefited.
Given that colouring books for adults are doing a roaring trade on Amazon, I suspect we are all crying out for some downtime.
Some theory suggests that the stronger the company culture, the more likely people are to behave in line with company interests. There will then be no need for rules. But even in a company with as strong a culture as ours, no expense sheets would put me in direct conflict with our auditors. Plus our business requires real face-to-face interaction with our candidates. Communication is 85 per cent non-verbal, so to understand what makes people tick you have to meet them, which is tricky if you are spending the summer in France.
At my company, requests for time off are always considered seriously: time off to help fight a marginal seat in the general election, to study for a part-time qualification, to cycle to Barcelona, to care for a family at a difficult time.
I have granted all these requests and more. If they exceed our holiday limits, it is granted unpaid. And we shut the office on the last Friday of the month at 3pm so people can have a longer weekend (unless client needs dictate otherwise).
And my colleagues all know how to disable email from their smartphones and take real time off. Which is harder than you think with unlimited holiday.
Mrs Moneypenny owns and runs an executive search company. At 53 she is a (young) baby boomer