Vacation Days Are Not the Answer

There was a great article in the Globe and Mail about the trend toward young tech companies in Canada following the lead of their Silicon Valley counterparts and offering unlimited vacation. In the company profiled, this pot ‘o’ gold at the end of the benefits rainbow backfired spectacularly when less than half the employees took any time off in the first year it was offered.

The co-founder attributed the failure as follows:

“…employees may have felt uncomfortable taking time when he and his co-founder hadn’t taken a single day off themselves since founding the company three years before.”

And there you go – young teams are more impressionable more likely  to model themselves after the manager in the room.  Even when you say, “Do as I say, not as I do” they will do exactly what you do.

It’s interesting that a benefit like unlimited vacation is almost always offered at companies where the employees still have spots.  While Millennials may be part of a generation that is often considered entitled, unjustly I believe, their need to believe in a cause and commit to something bigger than themselves outweighs their need to climb the Andes.

From that same co-founder:

”…he attributes the policy’s failure in part to the military-like camaraderie of the startup world, where taking time off can feel like leaving your fellow soldiers behind on the battlefield.”

At this stage, when the company is fighting to survive and become something with staying power, everyone needs to be suited up everyday.  It’s an exciting time and who would want to leave that – even for a surfing vacation in Bali.  Something important, earth shaking and difference making might happen while you are away.

Perhaps a generous vacation policy might be better served at the next stage of a company’s development, when everyone is out of the foxholes and there is less uncertainty about the future of the company.  That’s often a pretty crazy stage, too.  At least it’s a manageable stage, because there is more people and more cash flow and some professional managers, HR people and accountants who will make sure that one person or one bad decision won’t bring the company down while you are hiking the Grand Canyon.

As a founder of a start-up, if you have to offer people unlimited vacation to recruit the talent you need, you might as well shut the doors now and save yourself the time and agony.  If your idea, your product or you personally are not enough to bring in the foot soldiers who want to make a difference, then vacation days are not the answer.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s