It’s Good That Unlimited Vacation Is Terrible

August 26, 2016

4:00 pm

You will never take an unlimited vacation. Plenty of hip startups and business that wish they were hip are offering the perk now, and it looks great: You’ll get as much time off as you want, as long as you get your work done. The problem: Has your work ever been over? Besides, that guy next to you might steal your promotion and hasn’t taken a vacation day since last year.

Here’s what to do about it.

Unlimited Vacation Is Terrible

The problem can be boiled down to one sentence. Wesley Walser, founder and CEO of Ask Inline, has done so in a recent Medium post: “Vacation time is restricted socially instead of by policy.” America’s habit of overwork is keeping people in check, and those unused vacation days wind up majorly benefiting the company:

“Frankly, it’s surprising to me how many people underestimate the material value of unused vacation time. Not the value to themselves as humans, the material value. The value to the company; The red ink at the bottom of the balance sheet. Adopting an unlimited leave policy is a cost-cutting measure for a business. Cost cutting? Yes, they no longer have to pay out unused vacation when someone leaves the company. They no longer carry debt to every single employee who hasn’t taken this year’s two, three or four weeks of paid vacation.”

Which Is Useful During Negotiation

As Walser explains it, there’s just one question to ask when a recruiter mentions their unlimited vacation policy: “What is the average number of vacation days taken by employees in the last twelve calendar months?”

You know someone’s keeping track. If they don’t share, you know that they won’t be honest. But regardless of their answer, you’re telling them that you’re aware that the unlimited vacation days aren’t as great as they try to sound.

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Adam is a writer with an interest in a variety of mediums, from podcasts to comic books to video essays to novels to blogging — too many, basically. He's based out of Seattle, and remains a staunch defender of his state's slogan: "sayWA." In his spare time, he recommends articles about science fiction on Twitter, @AdamRRowe

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