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Dr. Matt Grawitch: May 2012 Archives

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With all the recent stories of downsizing and cutbacks because of the still-sluggish economy, consider my surprise when I learned about Netflix’s new vacation policy! Reviewing the number of days of vacation employees were actually taking (which was less, on average, than they were receiving), Netflix management has decided to do away with vacation altogether.

But, it’s not what you may think. The company has decreed that salaried employees will be allowed to take vacation days (paid time off) whenever they want. No longer do employees need to worry about how many days they have accrued. No longer do they need to worry about saving days up for family vacations. When employees need a break, they can simply take the day off.

But isn’t the company afraid employees would abuse such a privilege? According to Netflix, “We should focus on what people get done, not how many hours or days worked. Just as we don't have a nine to five workday policy, we don't need a vacation policy.”

What a novel idea! The company recognized that employees were working on weekends and in the evenings, and senior leaders decided that forcing employees to manage a certain number of official days off (which, for many workers, still entails checking email and completing work-related tasks) was just plain silly.

And I wholeheartedly agree! At first, I thought that perhaps some employees would abuse the system, and I’m sure there will be a small number who do. However, these employees are likely the ones who are not performing up to expectations anyway. These are likely the employees who do the bare minimum to get by, and under this system, employees are still expected to achieve results. If you don’t achieve results, don’t plan to be around very long.

As such, Netflix has created – at least on paper – a work environment that not only tolerates flexibility, but also embraces it. We’ll have to wait and see if it’s effective in the long run, but I, for one, hope that it is. Adding more high-profile success stories (like what Best Buy achieved with its ROWE intervention) will only add more evidence that greater flexibility in the workplace creates a win-win scenario for workers and the organization. And it also saves money, because now the human resources department doesn’t have to worry about tracking vacation days for workers. Instead, the hours and money spent on that process can be applied elsewhere.

Photo Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/merfam / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0