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Unlimited vacation time cropping up at startups, GE, but policy rare- Valutrics

American workhorses

Survey respondents in the SHRM report also pointed to such benefits and challenges of unlimited leave.

“Organizations that offered unlimited leave indicated that it is a positive benefit that allows employees more flexibility and time to spend with their families, boosts morale, helps with recruitment and retention, fosters trust and accountability, and encourages employees to take leave when they are sick,” the report stated.

The report further explained, “Some of the challenges of offering unlimited leave are: Employees may take advantage of it and take too much time, while others do not take enough time off (which is why some organizations implement a minimum number of days that need to be taken); it can be hard to implement fairly and ensure all employees have equal opportunity to take the leave they need; and it can be difficult to find coverage for employees on leave.”

Esen added, “There’s still a little bit of angst about how to make this policy work.”

Also, guilt gets in the way. Many employees are unfamiliar with the benefit, so they’re hesitant to use too much of it, she said. Managers and leaders struggle with how to plan around unlimited vacation time, particularly when faced with a longer-than-usual absence. And both managers and workers sometimes wrestle with whether, and how much, work should be done in advance of vacation and upon return versus how much gets shunted onto the employees left working in the office.

Esen acknowledged those challenges exist in degrees even at companies where the amount of available paid time off is set. Perhaps, she said, that’s why Americans have historically and continue to have a problem with taking enough time off.

True, according to the U.S. Travel Association. The “The State of American Vacation” reported 55% of American workers left vacation time unused in 2015, forfeiting a total of 222 million days.

Maybe Americans first need to figure out to take what they’re allotted before they can learn to enjoy even more.