Unlimited Vacation: A Relief or A Stressor?

Last year around March, most of the countries went into a lockdown. Everything, including education and work, shifted to an online mode and the phrase 'work from home' (WFH) became popular.  It felt like a relief at first, as working from home in the comfort of pyjamas seemed like a dream come true. After a few months, the internet got flooded with articles claiming how WFH increases stress among young adults as the boundaries between professional and personal lives get blurred.

Meetings and zoom calls picked up the pace and continued even after the office hours. The nine-to-five rule was discarded by this new normal of working, which demanded people work round the clock. Work-life balance seemed like a distant reality as both were accessible throughout the day. All these factors acted as stressors for the working adults. Vacation and leaves were not the best options as everyone was stuck at home with no other place to go.

Many employees might have thought about the 'No-Vacation Policy' followed by many organisations during these times. The policy was first initiated by Netflix several years ago. It promotes unlimited vacation for its employees. There won't be any check on the number of days a person has taken off in a year. In the beginning, it was seen as a 'controversial policy' which won't stay in place for long. People argued in favour of as well as against the policy. Several diverse viewpoints came forward, but none of them could prove themselves as the absolute right. Even after all this time, Netflix has continued with the policy.

Emerging startups and other companies have also started to follow the 'No Vacation Policy'. In the US, 1% of all the companies have abandoned the existing vacation and leave policies. Employees are trusted to complete their work and tasks at scheduled times and given the freedom to take leaves and go for holidays at their convenience.

The critics of the policy claim that 'no rules and regulations' might not work in the firm's best interests. They believe that the employees will take advantage of it and not turn up for important meetings or meet deadlines. Thus, it will impact the output and efficiency of any company in a negative manner. Human behaviour is unpredictable and varies from person to person. Not all employees will behave similarly. Some might avail themselves of working while being on vacation while others might never take a holiday because they do not want others to think they work less!

The advocates of the policy have given various arguments in its defence. They believe that the foundation of any such approach is based on mutual trust between the employees and the employer. With freedom comes responsibility! Every employee will be responsible for fulfilling their work on time and keeping other members in the loop with their vacation plans. Team leaders will have the responsibility to set examples for their employees to maintain a perfect work-life balance. They also believe that the existing holiday calendar doesn't serve all employees. Not every employee in Netflix celebrates Christmas or Hanukkah, thus giving them the freedom to take off is justified.

In the US, 35% of the workforce is millennials. Their way of doing things and perceiving the world is way too different from the previous generation. They don't want to prioritise work at the cost of personal life. They want a flexible work-life that allows them to live and enjoy as per their convenience. They believe that there's no point in working hard if one does not have enough time to enjoy and relax.

Apart from this, the millennials have a strong opinion on equality among the genders. Demand for paternity leaves has been a priority for the employees in the past few years. The no vacation policy works in favour of the millennial way of thinking. It allows them to maintain a work-life balance that suits their needs. Working parents now have the liberty to spend more time with their kids and family. The concept of period leave does not come up in these organisations because one has the freedom to take an off whenever they want.

The hustle culture has increased productivity but at the cost of mental health. Young adults suffer from anxiety, stress and even depression because of the overly competitive atmosphere at the workplace. Half of Millennials, along with 75% of Gen-Zers, have left a job for mental health reasons. WHO (World Health Organisation) has classified 'burnout' as an occupational phenomenon. The race to be better and more productive never ends. People end up working extra to achieve the next target or deadline. Leisure and relaxation are not encouraged in hustle culture. It is believed that working all the time without breaks is entirely normal and every individual should aspire to do that.

With increased awareness of mental health, companies are taking measures to reduce the burden on the employees. In some ways, the no vacation policy will lead to reduced stress. The reason being, it allows people to work at their own pace. Employees have the liberty to take leaves whenever they are stressed. They can rejuvenate themselves and get back to work at their convenience. This helps increase efficiency as employees work with a fresh and relaxed mind. Each individual has a different way to cope with stress, and thus the policy gives them the freedom to choose what they want to do.

Other than this, there are other aspects as well which make this policy favourable for all! New startups can recruit people from far off cities. The approach makes it possible for these people to work from wherever they are. These companies are giving more weightage to the amount and quality of work rather than the place and time at which they are done. This also encourages diversity in the workplace, as people from different cities join and work in one team.

An unlimited vacation policy might allow people to work at their own pace and in the comfort of their own home. It could also help them to think better, which would reflect in the quality of work. Not everyone will agree, but then every human behaves and perceives differently! This policy tries to accommodate all the employees under one frame. It gives freedom but not at the cost of work. Work has to be prioritised, but the time and place should depend on the employee and his preferences. After all, it harms no one to relax a bit and sing, "A-a-aye, I'm on vacation, every single day 'cause I love my occupation!"


Ananya Singh

An Economics student trying to make sense of the world! Extremely fun & talkative but only if I like you ;)

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