Employers today are rethinking strict policies around travel and time off, recognizing that employees need time to recharge and might need something more than the standard planned two week vacation. In reviewing people practices from past Best Workplace submissions, we found some great examples of companies bucking the status quo and trying something new.
No Notice PTO
Outdoor clothing retailer, Patagonia, which is often in the news for its innovative approach to business and people practices, realizes that planned vacations don’t work for its athlete employees. The company has instituted a "Let My People Go Surfing" flextime policy. A serious surfer doesn’t plan to go surfing next Tuesday at two o'clock. You go surfing when there are waves and the tide and wind are right. You don’t plan to go skiing in mid-March when you hope conditions are good. You ski powder when there’s powder snow! This is the credo at Patagonia, which has led to the Employees take advantage of this policy to catch a good swell, or go bouldering for an afternoon, pursue an education, or get home in time to greet the kids when they climb down from the school bus. This flexibility allows Patagonia to keep valuable employees who love their freedom and sports too much to settle for the constraints of a more regimented work environment.
Team Thank-You Trips
Another company, Ultimate Software, is rethinking traditional incentive trips. Many organizations send just their sales teams on lavish reward trips to recognize the revenue they’ve brought into the company. However, a unique characteristic of HR software company, Ultimate Software, is that it recognizes that every team plays a role in company success. As a result, all teams have reward trips that serve as a collective Thank You for their work year-round. Ultimate pays all the major expenses and frequently includes employees’ significant others or family members.
Summer Fun Time
Granite Properties recognizes that the summer months present challenges for working parents or any employee that wants to enjoy the season to its fullest. During the months between Memorial Day and Labor Day, Granite allows employees to take extra time off without a reduction in pay. Team members get a paid four hour block of time each week to accommodate the changes in families' schedules or need to get outside and enjoy the weather. These four hours are usually taken on Friday afternoons, but can be taken at any time during the week with manager approval. The only rule is that the hours have to be used during the corresponding week and cannot be carried over to combine with another week's hours. The company’s experience with summer hours has shown that people appreciate the paid time off, are highly engaged, and have not allowed this schedule to interfere with the business needs.
Point B Inc also wants its employees to enjoy the summer. Recognizing that the company’s employee-owners often have a partner at home that supports their work, Point B instituted a program of thanks and appreciation. Each summer, Point B provides a fully-sponsored two-night, three-day summer getaway for the employee and partner. The weekend allows the couple to reconnect and get away from the day-to-day routine.
As these examples show, there is lots of room for creativity when it comes to vacation and travel policies. Don’t just do what everyone else does. Do what’s best for your own employees (and get out there and have a little fun in the sun!)