Sometimes on the business landscape, there are ideas that at first thought — and often second and third thought as well — seem like impractical fantasies instead of viable strategies. No, we’re not talking about providing free coffee or ultra-fast wifi — which according to some employees should be enshrined in the Constitution. We’re talking about unlimited vacation policies.
In theory, an unlimited vacation policy isn’t truly unlimited; kind of like an all-you-can-eat buffet really isn’t all-you-can-eat (at some point, diminishing marginal returns kick in and one more scoop of mac and cheese could lead to a 911 call). Basically, an unlimited vacation policy is a deal between employers and employees that goes like this:
I, the employer, am willing to let you take off as much time as you want PROVIDED that all of the following boxes are checked:
- You get your work done as agreed, and aren’t just delegating (read: dumping) your tasks onto a colleague, or kicking the can down the road.
- You request your vacation in advance, and accept that it may be denied due to scheduling conflicts.
- You agree that doing some minimal work and staying in the loop may be necessary while you’re on vacation — so while nobody expects you to check email 10 times an hour, agreeing to spend a few minutes a day to answer questions or provide input may be (and probably will be) necessary.
Now, regardless of whether you’re an employer or an employee, the above probably sounds reasonable and fair to you. After all, when it works, it’s win-win: employers get the productivity and performance they need, and employees get the R&R they crave. What could go wrong?
In a word: plenty. That’s because instead of being mutually beneficial, many employers and employees are discovering that an unlimited vacation policy is actually WORSE than a conventional policy (i.e. “you get 2 weeks off in the summer to go to Disney World and pay $400/day to stand in line with all of the other families who get 2 weeks off in the summer to go to Disney World — enjoy!”).
What’s the problem here? It’s not that an unlimited vacation policy is inherently flawed. If that were so, then every business that experimented with this idea would be regretting the decision, as would their employees. But many businesses are making it work, and it’s because they are using the RIGHT TECHNOLOGY — including a hosted cloud phone system.
Let’s revisit the above elements, but this time highlight how a cloud phone system makes the difference between success and failure:
You get your work done as agreed, and aren’t just delegating (read: dumping) your tasks onto a colleague, or kicking the can down the road.
A hosted cloud phone system significantly — and in some cases dramatically — improves employee productivity with carrier-grade features like voicemail-to-email, one number service (i.e. route all calls to a single number), live call forwarding, IVR, auto attendant, and the list goes on. Employees get more done in less time, which clears the deck for a well-earned vacation (or maybe a staycation that includes plenty of pizza and Netflix).
- You request your vacation in advance, and agree that it may be denied due to scheduling conflicts.
Exhausted HR folks can start to feel like air traffic controllers as they receive an ongoing stream of vacation requests, as well as changes to previous requests. In fact, they can get so stressed out coordinating vacations, that they can need a vacation themselves!
A hosted cloud phone system makes it easy for employees to connect with each other through instant messages — whether they’re located in the same office, or on other sides of the country. Plus, they can access features like group calendars to check staff coverage, and keep an eye on upcoming events that would conflict with a vacation request (e.g. new product rollout, presenting at a conference, training, etc.).
Will this totally remove the administrative burden from HR? No — hosted cloud phone systems aren’t magic wands (sorry). But they can and will lighten the load to everyone’s benefit.
You agree that doing some minimal work and staying in the loop may be necessary while you’re on vacation — so while nobody expects you to check email 10 times an hour, agreeing to spend a few minutes a day to answer questions or provide input may be (and probably will be) necessary.
This is where the rubber hits the road for unlimited vacation policies. It’s also where the $!@$# usually hits the fan — because chasing down an employee who is stuck in line at Disney World is tedious and frustrating for everyone.
However, that’s where a hosted cloud phone system enters the picture and saves the day (and the vacation!). Employees can simply install an app on their smartphone to make/receive calls and instant messages, check group calendars, and more. Or if they’d prefer to get on the grid via desktop (such as in the business center of their hotel), they can simply log in through an online app, and let their colleagues know that they’re in the loop. Or, they can just brag about how much fun they’re having. It’s all good.
The Bottom Line
An unlimited vacation policy is an enlightened idea. But rolling it out across the workforce without the right technology means that, before long, it will be a liability instead of an asset. A hosted cloud phone system goes a long, long way towards ensuring the latter and preventing the former!