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Why unlimited PTO might actually work

I’m going to make the assumption that you are a fairly reasonable and responsible individual. You do what you say you’re going to do, you get to places on time (as much as possible), you pay your bills, you show up to work each day, and you call your mom at least once a month (make sure you get on that last one!). If this describes you, you’re probably a great candidate to receive Unlimited Paid Time Off (PTO), a new trend that’s become more prevalent with some start-ups and progressive companies today.

So what does it entail? Well, exactly what it sounds like. Vacation time and sick days are rolled into one plan, and you can take as much time off as you need. Only about 2% of companies have started offering this benefit so far, but the larger companies who have implemented it (e.g. Netflix, GE, Virgin Group) are noting that their employees are grateful for the increase in adaptability and that their company is looking out for their best interests. It’s proving to be a huge recruiting draw and can help employees feel more satisfied in their jobs as well as achieve work-life balance.

The shock factor of this new trend reminds me of the days when people balked at the thought of employees working from home. I don’t know about your workplace but telecommuting is now the norm where I work, and home is by far the place where I get the most work done. Perhaps unlimited PTO will become the norm down the road as well? Employees would know to plan their vacations after that huge project, or when they need to stay and cover for their coworker who’s going through a difficult home situation or just needs a day or two to recharge. Think of the cohesiveness this could bring to a team, or an entire organization.

Yes, there will always be a few rotten apples that abuse the policy but I doubt they’d be employed for very long. Again, assuming you are a fairly reasonable and responsible individual, you know what work needs to get done and that you should probably NOT go to Hawaii for a month and/or during the end of the quarter. Richard Branson of Virgin Group writes “If working nine to five no longer applies, then why should strict annual (vacation) policies?”

Yes, unlimited time off policies are relatively new, and measuring their impact may be difficult, but I suspect more companies will catch on if the feedback is positive. Perhaps organizations that are having a hard time finding good talent should offer unlimited PTO – they may be surprised at who comes knocking at their door!