Unlimited holidays – for the grown ups

A Kent marketing company has made the dizzy heights of Mail Online in the last few days with the headline, ‘Is this one of Britain’s best places to work?’

The question is posed by the Mail, primarily based on the news that said company, Reddico, has made the decision to give its staff unlimited holidays.

With the sole boundary appearing to be that your leave must not impact on any other team member, employees at the company are allowed to set their holidays, including the length of time taken and the frequency of these breaks.

They’re also allowed to choose their own hours, keeping time to suit their own needs rather than by following any tight time constraints.

An approach already championed by companies like Netflix and Virgin, unlimited holiday is not, in itself, a new idea, however it’s still something of a novelty in the UK and has not been put into practice much, as yet.

Being adult about it

So how does it work?

A Reddico employee is quoted as saying: “The whole idea is we are all adults and it’s about having respect.”

It certainly does seem like a very grown up prospect as it essentially allows the employee to call it as he or she sees it and make the decision. Individuals, therefore, get to judge for themselves whether or not they are in a position to take a holiday, and for how long, without it causing any issue to the business or the rest of team.

Most compelling, by far, is that it places workers as masters of their own destinies, who can exercise control over their own work, family and leisure time.

Surprisingly…

It would appear, however, that many staff members are reluctant to take advantage of this new offering when it comes to annual leave, with some people taking less time off as a result.

Reddico noted that some of its employees were struggling to take full advantage of the new regime; a reaction which is shared with, and has been highlighted by, other companies who have introduced the practice.

The explanation for this hesitance among some employees is that they are driven by pressure not to let team colleagues down, as well as a fear of messing up and the responsibility that might sit with making the wrong judgement call when it comes to how much leave to take.

Identifying the pitfalls

The BBC also discussed the trend for having unlimited paid holiday, earlier in the year, using the US approach as a comparison to the UK and identifying the key negatives.

Its findings were that unlimited holidays can be constrained by workplace demands. It’s not as simple as saying ‘I want or need a holiday so I’ll take it now’. Nobody wants to look bad and nobody wants to be seen to be taking too much – and that in itself can cause undue stress.

Also, there’s the question of handovers and deadlines. In most companies, it’s not that easy to take off whenever we please. Preparation and planning come into play to make that happen and, if some employees are more comfortable with passing work over and are slightly blind-sided when it comes to others needs, resentments can build as a result.

Given that, we still also stand by our polite reputation.

En masse, nobody wants to be ‘that person’ and so people will shoot for less rather than more and can end up feeling disgruntled.

Mixing it up

The best perks are set by addressing the individual’s needs, along with the shared desires of the team, as much as possible and not going for a ‘one size fits all’ approach.

Flexible working arrangements, like choosing your hours, work well as long as everyone gets to choose and they all, ultimately, put the same time in.

Holidays should operate on a similar level so that employees get, roughly, the same amount of paid time off and they should be taken in a mindful manner – otherwise… well, unlimited holidays can become a little bit limiting!