Unlimited vacation policies, which have so far been adopted by only a handful of US businesses, have been embraced by both workers and their employers, who say the flexibility increases profitability.
At Ryan, a tax services firm of 1,600 employees, the majority of workers have not formally declared their hours since 2008 and no one keeps track of time off.
It’s an exception to the norm in the United States, where most people work 40 hours a week and paid leave is not regulated by law. On average, Americans receive two weeks of paid vacation per year, according to a study from the non-profit, non-partisan Centre for Economic and Policy Research.
Steve Thompson – a director at Ryan’s Washington office – says he often begins his summer weekends at mid-day on Fridays to avoid traffic on his way to the beach.
The 32-year-old and the two people on his team generally are physically in the office from 10am to 4pm – so-called “core hours” – but are otherwise free to organise their work weeks.
Thompson – whose job entails helping businesses reduce their property taxes, earning Ryan a percentage of the savings – says he sometimes leaves at lunchtime to do errands or work out.
“If I’m feeling particularly stressed and I don’t have a meeting, I can go to the gym, work out some of the stress and then come back to work,” he told reporters.
He estimated that in practice, his two-team members still limited their “real” vacation to two consecutive weeks last year.
But the real added value of the policy for employees is that they can easily take three-day weekends or the occasional day off, as long as they get their work done. Telecommuting, made easier by new technologies, is encouraged.
Ryan’s flexibility marks a turn-around for the company, previously known for its nose-to-the-grindstone work atmosphere.
“It was a pressure-filled environment,” said Delta Emerson, executive vice president and chief of staff, who helped put in place the new policy, called myRyan. It replaced Excel spreadsheets of hours worked, which had been the way employees were formerly evaluated.
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