What would you rather have, unlimited vacation time with your laptop riding shotgun or a set amount of vacation time when you are seriously expected to be out of the office?
This article in the NY Times explores the situation at IBM. It seems like a simple question, set time or flexible time. But there are several other factors; the degree to which you can truly disconnect, peer pressure, examples set by senior leadership, a voluntary vacation tracking system, personal guilt. I personally think that the myth of the productive/responsible/willing-to-disconnect employee as the norm is a little silly; some will take advantage of the situation, some will feel guilty about taking time off and will work until they experience total burn-out (been there? Yeah, me too). IBM says they don't know whether this policy results in people taking more or less time off (hmm, I'd be trying to figure that out), but do they really WANT people to take their vacation time? It sounds like a potentially generous offering, but if it results in people taking less time off, is it really?
I like something in the middle; some guaranteed vacation days (no laptops, please) plus the flexibility to be out of the office when you need to as long as your work is getting done (yay, more shoe shopping!). Having some set vacation days gives me a certain amount of time out of the office that I "should" take. I'm not saying that I always take all of them (I'm up to 4 weeks of vacation a year) but it's definitely motivating to know they are floating around out there waiting for me to take them. It also gives me permission to *really* take them. No laptop, no checking the smart-phone. Don't call me in case of recruiting emergency; I'm by the pool with a nice Chardonnay.
Here are some reader comments on the article.
PS: I'm currently planning a trip back to Chicago for my HS reunion and a fun shopping excursion to NYC with a friend (plus a Thanksgiving excursion to Arizona, including a football game). So I swear I'm doing a better job of practicing what I preach this year!