Are Unlimited Vacation and PTO Policies Right For Your Company?

I came across an interesting article in my newsfeed this past week that really got me thinking from an HR perspective. The article discusses perks that some smaller niche companies have put in place such as: unlimited vacation policies, offering 2 weeks paid holiday in December, or offering travel money to employees who take over 5 days off in a row to travel.  I have a colleague that I’ve known for years who takes a sabbatical of sorts. He and his wife call it a temporary early retirement and see it as an opportunity to do things that they want to do, with family and friends, while they are young and have great health. They spend time with loved ones, travel the world, immerse themselves in their hobbies, recharge and then after 6 months or so, they go back to work for another long stretch of time and plan the next time out. Its hard for me to do personally and I know its not for everyone — but I LOVE what they do and their approach.

Many employers don’t have programs or systems set up to facilitate something like what my friend does — so they have coordinated and plan this on their own. So I was really intrigued and interested in what these companies are doing when it comes to work-life balance, benefits, and still meeting needs of the customer and business. Its utterly creative… no, innovative.

If this has spurred you to give a second thought to your own time off policies and programs or you just want to think  about the possibilities here are a few things you may want to consider when looking at feasibility and making some changes to your time off plans:

Four Ways to Shake Up Your Policies

Consider your customers, your products, and your company culture

What are their expectations of you from a product and support perspective. A couple of examples that were pointed out suggest that the company shuts down when business slows, so understanding the timing of business is important too. I threw in culture as well and maybe it needs it own bullet, but it is important to consider your employees and your culture. Several of the examples point back to a company vision of philosophy that helps to drive the behaviors of the company and support some of the time off policies.

What do your employees want

Is this a benefit that they would find valuable or want to take advantage of. In many ways its only a “benefit” if people perceive it as such and its valuable to them.  Also, know what you are trying to solve for. Putting one of these practices in place just for the sake of putting something in place isn’t wise. Understand what your employees want AND what you are trying to solve for.

Think outside the box

Once you have a handle on points one and two — then really think about what will work for YOUR company, but allow for some creativity with it. Programs such as sabbaticals, job sharing, or finding ways to increase part time workers are programs that may get some of the same results, IF you know what you are trying to solve for (and what your company, culture, and employees need).  If some of the examples such as unlimited vacation days are TOO extreme for your company, play around with some of the other examples that have been around for a while — that means better opportunity for research, benchmarking, and understanding of what has worked for other firms.

Take baby steps

If you decide that you want to make changes to some of your time off programs, take baby steps in making the changes. I don’t recommend going 0-60 in a short amount of time. Have a good plan in place, a rocking change management plan (communication is important here, tie it back to how this is good for both employee, customers, and company, and make sure that everyone understands “the why”), get buy in, and plan for the right implementation changes in phases.

What do you think about time off practices and policies such as these — good for employee and business or all hype?

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Andrea Devers

Andrea is an HR technologist and change management expert. She’s has built her career in global HR Compliance, HR process improvement, and shared services across all functions of HR. Connect with Andrea.

Reader Interactions


  1. Curtis Whitler says

    week, come in on weekends, and put your job ahead of your personal life.
    Even thinking of such unlimited vacation policy within the place I work makes me thrilled. I think this is something every company should use to attract and retain employees. But in reality it seems that employers are even more suspicious about this policy than about flexible time . In most organizations you are still rewarded only if you work excessively and put your job ahead of your personal life.

  2. Sabra says

    Employees who I know that work for companies that offers unlimited vacations, definitely don’t take advantage of the opportunity. While psychologically they think it’s super cool and an awesome benefit – they don’t use it. From that perspective if you have a primarily exempt workforce it definitely works in the employers advantage.


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