Earlier this week, I read a truly fascinating article about the corporate culture over at Netflix, specifically their unconventional vacation policy. Being a hyper-successful company easily outstripping it’s competition, I was intrigued by the details. Netflix has completely eliminated their vacation policy:
Salaried employees can take as much time off as they’d like, whenever they want to take it. Nobody – not employees themselves, not managers – tracks vacation days.
My first skim of the article had me disbelieving that any such policy (or lack thereof) could result in anything less than chaos and a routinely empty office – especially on the days surrounding every minor holiday and 4-day weekend. My second, more thorough, read had me officially convinced of their reasoning.
Based on my own professional experiences, I think the vacation policy Netflix follows, while exceptionally bold, is also relatively sensible considering how individuals work in a modern world. Managers at any and all levels should be most interested in work being accomplished efficiently, creatively and on-deadline and less interested in where specifically that work gets done. As I sit here on my couch at 10:53 pm, I am acutely aware of working outside the confines of the office. The freedom to work whenever and wherever gives an employee a higher level of responsibility and more opportunity to prove his or her dedication to and passion for the company. Contrary to popular belief, it actually sets a higher standard for employee performance. Working only nine-to-five is a practice that is becoming more obsolete and can (sometimes) indicate a disengaged employee. Without overtime pay for salaried employees and with the advent of telecommuting, employers can proactively seek out individuals who can be held accountable for deliverables, regardless of time and place.
One of the primary principles I learned in college is that communication technology, from the telegraph to the iPhone, reconstructs time and space for society. People easily connect across continents and the final barrier to communication really exists only in time zones (and this may be deconstructed as time travel becomes possible). It’s imperative that employers adjust workplace norms to reflect this high-degree of flexibility. As Netflix aptly points out,
We should focus on what people get done, not how many hours or days worked. Just as we don’t have a nine to five day policy, we don’t need a vacation policy.
I encourage you to re-evaluate your own policies to determine if they match with where your employees fit along the spectrum. Not every company can adopt such a liberal policy, nor should they. Each company and employee is unique for a reason. But maybe it’s time to address your employees needs and provide them with the freedom to choose their own responsibility. At the end of the day, you may find more engaged and productive employees, leading to more innovation and more growth within your organization.