These Philly Companies Offer Unlimited Paid Vacation

But navigating it is tricky.



It sounds like a dream come true — unlimited vacation from work. While most workplaces in Philadelphia have traditional paid-time-off policies, a few have decided to let employees take as much time off as they want.

Take Brownstein Group for example. The Center City advertising and branding agency thinks it’s important that its 80 employees have time to refresh. It’s one of the perks that’s allowed the company to maintain a high retention rate in an industry that typically has high turnover.

“We’ve had several people travel around the world for three weeks,” said President and CEO Marc Brownstein. “They come back and have so many new stories to tell — and that often helps them in their work. Being in our industry, you need to have a degree in life.”

Relay is another. The 40-person tech company in King of Prussia wants a work-hard, play-hard mentality — and strict vacation policies make it tough to play hard, said CEO Matthew Gillin.

“Nobody likes managing a rigid vacation policy,” said Gillin. “It doesn’t jibe with our culture of thinking differently.” He said the policy “never gets abused” and that “people go away for two-and-a-half to three weeks at a clip nobody bats an eye. That was probably the same person working until 2 a.m. when there was a big client demand.”

Sure, the policy is easy to implement at small employers or startups, but what about large companies? Just this week, LinkedIn became the latest large employer to announce an unlimited vacation policy. (The company has 8,900 employees in 30 offices around the world.) In a blog post announcing the change, , senior vice president of global talent organization said the policy allows employees to “act like an owner.”

“With discretionary time off, there is no set minimum or maximum amount of vacation time employees can take in a year. Instead, employees will work with their manager to request time off when they need it,” she wrote.

Think unlimited vacation will get abused? Think again. The majority of managers (72 percent) and workers (56 percent) said despite an unlimited vacation policy, the amount of time they would take would remain the same, according to a recent study by the Creative Group. Meanwhile, 39 percent of executives believe office productivity would increase if employees could take time as much time off as they wanted.

The management challenge is to make sure that employees actually take vacation — because when there’s an infinite amount of time, many won’t know what’s appropriate.

“It can’t be seen as a career inhibitor,” said Stewart Friedman, a professor at the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania. “It needs to be understood that the time is meant for restoring and rejuvenating to bring back your full self, full attention and energy to the company’s mission. It becomes easier to feel less guilty or about taking time if it’s understood you’re doing it not just for yourself but also to bring more value to the employer in the long run.”

Communication is key. Sure, you have unlimited vacation, but that doesn’t mean you can just take a month-long backpacking trip across Europe without giving no notice.

“You’ve got to communicate,” said Gillin from Relay. “There has to be a basic understanding of what’s courteous to the team and you need to have a rational discussion to hash it out with the HR department and your manager.”

At the Northern Liberties-based tech firm Seer Interactive, an unlimited vacation policy works because it’s created a “really high trust environment,” said Director of Employee Development Emily Allen. In July, the employee average was around two-and-a-half to three weeks of vacation year-to-date. While that might sound like a lot to some employers, Allen says Seer Interactive is happy that employees get time to unwind.

“We want people to use their judgement and be adults,” she said. “Some will choose not to take much time, some will take a lot of time. We don’t police how much someone takes. We look at output.”

Allen said that the company just requires that employees have a “super tight out of office plan” so everyone know that work will be covered.

“Our team does a really good job of disconnecting,” she said.

Wish your company had an unlimited vacation policy? Think it’s not all its cracked up to be? Let us know in the comments.

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