Today’s guest post is by Lindsay Bell.

I don’t know about you, but from where I’m sitting up here in the Great White North, it’s getting pretty chilly.

Winter storms are on the horizon, and while Gini Dietrich might be a snow bunny, I, my friends, most certainly am not.

Right now I’m starting to dream of southern climes.

I’m obsessed with watching TV shows about places such as Belize, Thailand, and Mexico. In other words: White sandy beaches, oppressive heat, and cocktails at dawn.

Like most of you, in the past (I’ve only been with the Spin Sucks gang since September) when I started thinking about escaping from my cold, dark life, I would count up my vacation days and say “Aw, crap, never mind.”

Because taking time off for sick kids, doctor’s appointments, and whatever other random crap life sometimes throws your way (Oh hey! My basement’s flooded!), eats up those precious few paid days off faster than you can say “Honey, book the airport limo!”

The statistics back this up.

Around the world, the good ol’ U.S.A. is affectionately known as the ‘no vacation nation.’ It’s the only developed country without a federal mandate for a minimum number of vacation days. At last count, 39.7 percent of American workers had no access to holiday days. And, while my American friends sure know how to celebrate a holiday (helloooo? Thanksgiving..??) your great states only actually have 10 public holidays a year, a number below the global average.

And before I get all smug on y’all, Canada fares no better. While our somewhat socialist attitude practically guarantees paid time off with a statutory minimum of 10 vacation days, apparently – with only nine public holidays – we don’t actually know how to party.

All Work No Play…

As the working world changes and adapts to our new mobile way of life, companies are realizing (albeit slowly) that people really never stop working. Raise your hand if you respond to texts at nights and weekends? Answer your phone while at the park with your kids? Heck, most of you have probably done all of the above plus checked your business email account between mai tais in Mexico.

Which brings me to the latest trend in employee benefits: Unlimited paid time off. Among many others, Netflix is doing it. And so are The Social Media Group and Social Strata.

What an unlimited paid time off policy policy does is threefold:

  • It recognizes and respects that employees rarely – really – stop working.
  • It actually allows people to achieve a semblance of work/life balance.
  • And, maybe the most shocking thing of all, it says to staff members “Hey, you’re an adult, we trust you.”

I know right? You’ve just fallen off your chair and booked a six month cruise around the world! But it doesn’t actually work that way.

Companies who have UPTO policies still monitor the amount of time people take off (that’s a given from a business standpoint), and require notice in advance for, say, a trip abroad. But if you need a morning off, or want to leave early for an appointment or to watch your kid play soccer? Off you go!

Stress Kills

Businesses are beginning to understand that the more people work (beyond a 40 hour week), the less productive they actually are. How deeply family stressors can affect ones day-to-day output. And how inspired and motivated employees can be when they feel empowered and trusted.

Interestingly enough, people don’t tend to abuse these policies. The old “give someone enough rope and they’ll hang themselves” adage doesn’t apply here. If anything, bosses are discovering they need to go out of their way to enforce proper vacation time and ensure staffers aren’t trying to play hero by being the guy who never takes time off.

I understand this is not a business practice that every industry can adopt. It’s the tech world’s new shiny thing at the moment. But I bet many organizations could work in this type of flexibility if they really wanted to.

Fact: Times have changed. It’s not about clocking in and clocking out any longer. We all have day-to-day responsibilities and longer term goals that we have to hit.

What an unlimited paid time off policy says is this: Deliver on time, hit your numbers, don’t screw up, let us know where you are and when you’ll be in (or not), but make sure you live your life to the fullest.

Lindsay Bell is the content director at Arment Dietrich, and works in Toronto. A former TV producer, she’s a strong advocate of three minutes or less of video content. She has a cool kid, a patient husband, and two annoying cats. 

Note from Gini: Well, Lindsay just spilled the beans for our plans for 2013. Look for more on our unlimited paid time off benefits next year.

Lindsay Bell

Lindsay Bell is the content director at V3 Marketing, and works in Toronto. A former TV producer, she’s a strong advocate of three minutes or less of video content. She has a cool kid, a patient husband, two annoying cats, and Hank Dawge, a Vizsla/Foxhound/moose hybrid. Ok, maybe not moose.

View all posts by Lindsay Bell