Unlimited PTO Is Not the Enemy

We’ve all heard for years of the scandalous topic of unlimited vacation. How is that possible? It will be anarchy! No one will ever work! People will never take time off! Enough is enough folks. It’s not only possible to bring to life, it’s preferable. (IMHO)

People tend to behave in the way we expect them to. If we assume providing unlimited vacation (or any other seemingly impossible benefit) will bring chaos, it probably will. However, if we set a program like this up well, communicate the parameters effectively and trust in people, it’s amazing how smoothly this type of thing can come to life. Now, here are some tips on how to set your organization up for success with this type of benefit.

Setting your organization up for success with unlimited PTO


Rome wasn’t built in a day. Reading one article about a certain policy or benefit doesn’t count as sufficient research. Devour all the content you can. Ask people in your network for their thoughts or better yet, experiences. Leave no stone unturned. Once you’ve gathered all of the data possible, you can begin to build from there.

Use your brain.

Take the time to sit down and think about possible benefits and complications to this type of policy in your workplace. You’ve heard the horror stories, now combat them. Have work sessions with your teams to get a sense of what might be possible and how those solves would be received internally.

Know your audience.

I get it. This type of freedom isn’t for everyone. There are workplaces and businesses where it would make people very nervous. It’s our job to figure out a way to alleviate those nerves. Does this mean training for managers? Instituting a minimum number of vacation days per year? Having some heart-to-hearts with the CEO? You’d be surprised at the number of solutions that are out there if you’re willing to look.


Change makes people nervous. Make certain that you spell out any and all changes to employees in a simple fashion. All hands on deck meeting, emails, skywriting, whatever. The more you openly you share and discuss changes, the easier it should be for people to adapt.

It is quite possible you could still go through the exercises listed above and then come to the conclusion that unlimited vacation is not for your organization. That’s cool. Not everything is for everyone. However, don’t we owe it to our employees to take the time out to explore new things on their behalf? If HR isn’t doing that, then who is?


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Kelly Poulson

Kelly has spent her career helping people kick ass and become better versions of themselves. Coaching, training, recruiting – you name it, she’s done it, and in a variety of industries ranging from advertising to behavioral health to tourism and beyond. Be it supporting new managers in their journeys from uncertain supervisors to rock star bosses, helping lost newbies zero in on what they want from their careers and find their inner confidence to ask for (and receive) that promotion, or enabling leaders to be more self-aware in their management styles and more skillfully interact with those around them, she’s done it all. Outside of pushing to make people and organizations better, Kelly spends most of her time marathoning Netflix programming with her mutt, Dexter. www.kellypoulson.com Connect with Kelly.


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