Minimum Vacation

Sysadmin1138 has a post today on minimum vacation policies, an interesting twist on the unlimited vacation policies many startups now have:

The idea seems to be a melding of the best parts of unlimited and max. Employees are required to take a certain number of days off a year, and those days have to be full-disconnect days in which no checking in on work is done. Instead of using scarcity to urge people to take real vacations, it explicitly states you will take these days and you will not do any work on them.

Sysadmin1138 expounds on several ways this is a cool idea. I agree. There are real benefits to forcing employees to go (and stay) completely away for a moderate amount of time. In fact, financial institutions usually have a mandatory absence policy as part of their security program. The United States’ Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) encourages institutions to require no less than two continuous weeks of vacation for all employees:

During this time, their duties and responsibilities should be assumed by other employees. This basic control has proven to be an effective internal safeguard in preventing fraud. In addition, such a policy is viewed as a benefit to the well-being of the employees and can be a valuable aid to the institution’s overall training program.

If someone is out of the office for two weeks there is a greater likelihood that fraudulent activity will be visible . Less maliciously, when someone is gone and unreachable holes in training and documentation become pretty clear.

LumberghThe Achilles Heel of all these new-fangled vacation policies is that they need managers and company leadership to be results-oriented. That means corporate middle management actually has to manage people, might have to have some difficult conversations about performance, might have to occasionally deny vacation based on performance, and will definitely have to stop treating employees like kindergarteners. Just because Alice took 22 vacation days doesn’t mean Bob gets to take 22 days, if he’s not meeting expectations.

Of course, it’s hard to tell Bob that, though, especially if management doesn’t have a good framework for setting goals and expectations in the first place. And creating that framework sounds like work… isn’t it just easier to just go ahead and do¬†things the way they’ve always been done, and leave these strange vacation pipe dreams to the Californians? And where is your TPS report?

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