For all the demands of working at a startup or high-growth technology company it would seem there’s no time for vacation. Yet, paradoxically, many companies offer unlimited time off.
The perk is part of an escalating benefits war among tech firms trying to recruit top talent. Typically, employees are allowed to take as many days off as they want, so long as they work it out with their manager.
The benefit has not been universally embraced, however. When Chicago’s Tribune Co., parent of the Los Angeles Times, tried implementing an unlimited vacation policy last November its employees and their labor union balked, pointing out that the newspaper company stood to benefit by not paying some employees for untaken time off. The Tribune Co. later reverted back to a defined vacation plan.
Still, many startup and tech executives swear by the policy and insist it is good for recruitment and employee morale.
We spoke with several L.A. tech executives about establishing and managing unlimited vacation policies: Rob Salvatore, chief executive of online creative crowdsourcing agency Tongal of Santa Monica; Kyle Hill, chief executive of in-home senior care management website HomeHero of Santa Monica; and Liz Liu, senior manager of people operations at mobile game studio Scopely of Culver City.
Question: Should vacation time be defined, so that employees understand how much time off is appropriate?
Salvatore: Fast-growing tech companies thrive on fluidity, so why should vacation be any different? Rarely is anyone completely unplugged these days, and unlimited policies allow the company and the employee the flexibility necessary to account for this new workplace reality.
Hill: Startup culture is about striking a balance, and it’s different for everyone. Some people are fine with two to three days off a year, while others need two to three weeks. Regardless, I think it's extremely important to encourage your employees to travel, seek new experiences and spend time with family and loved ones. When you’re away from work you get fresh perspectives and ideas that you wouldn’t always find while working.
Do you offer unlimited vacation?
Salvatore: Yes, Tongal takes the approach that employees have the support of their colleagues and know what they need to do to stay healthy and be productive.
Hill: Yes, all HomeHero asks is they communicate absences effectively with their team far in advance and make sure they have ample coverage. We employ very hard-working, self-motivated individuals who, frankly, probably should be forced to take vacation time more frequently.
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