Unlimited Vacation Time? Yes, PLEASE!?

by Doug Zanes | Last Updated: August 14, 2015

There’s been a bit of a craze going around in the corporate world…

Maybe more of a vicious consideration/rumor of unlimited vacation time…

And one U.K. based company was bold enough to offer it!

The results?


We know, we know.  It’s not like us to deliver bad news but after Sir Richard Branson, a major advocate of unlimited vacation days, sent the world a buzz with the idea, one company decided to put the idea to the test…

British photography equipment company, Triggertrap took the leap…

Of course just because unlimited vacation time sounds amazing for employees doesn’t mean that same amazing feeling translates to a beautiful executed action..

CEO of Triggertrap, Haje Jan Kamps shared the story of the company’s failed experiment in offering unlimited vacation time in 2014 on Medium.

While Jan Kamps was worried that if his company stopped tracking who was taking off when, productivity might slide and employees might overindulge in the new privilege, the actual problem turned out to be very different, he discovered….

After looking at the numbers, the problem wasn’t that people were taking too much vacation…

Quite the opposite, in fact…

While you’d assume that giving people free rein to plan their time would lead to them taking more time to refresh and recharge, Triggertrap’s experience was well…

The opposite!

Here is how he explained it:

“In the UK, you tend to be told how many ‘days of holiday’ you have left on your pay slip, which means that you get a monthly reminder of how many days you’ve taken, and how many you have left. This tends to lead to people actually taking their days off—because if you don’t take them by the end of the year, you lose them,”

So in fact, without that monthly nudge his staff were taking less time, not more.


We thought so too…but guilt has it’s ways…

Jan Kamps explained that because the company wasn’t explicitly tracking time off, people felt guilty about taking time off.

And more importantly, when the company didn’t keep tabs on days, management found it was difficult to fairly assess who wasn’t pulling their weight.

Here was the bottom line: The policy wasn’t working by any measure. Employees were more burnt out, the actual number of days taken had declined, and the leadership team was paradoxically more stressed about vacation policy than before it instituted this supposedly anxiety-reducing initiative…

Hmmm…. this is entirely counter intuitive (and yes we know this is ruining your carefully thought out protest on this very issue for your company)…

Here’s what Triggertrap decided to do this year instead:

  • Publicly tracking vacation days taken
  • Giving teams responsibility for each others’ burn out—if your colleague needs a break, push them to take more time.
  • Continuing to offer no absolute limit on the number of days people can take given that their colleague are happy with their plans
  • Offering cash bonuses for employees who take 14 or more days holiday in each half of the year.

Wait, wait, wait….

Paying your employees to work less?!

(We see you reworking your protest plan of action)

*This story originally appear on Inc. and Slate.

Doug Zanes
Doug Zanes: Founding Attorney Raised in Douglas, Arizona, and went to college at Arizona State University and graduated from law school at St. Mary’s University School of Law in Texas. Doug began practicing law in Phoenix Arizona in 1997.
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