Normally this time of year, people are scrambling trying to figure out how to use up their vacation days before they lose them. It sounds harsh, but the folks at Prominic.NET aren’t doing that because we don’t give them any vacation days. After all, there’s lots of work to be done, and who can afford to pay their employees to miss work?
Apparently, we can, along with a small but growing number of other companies.
Prominic doesn’t *give* vacation days because we don’t *track* vacation days. Nor do we track sick days. Or personal days. Or dentist days. Or Cubs game days. Or kids’ field trip days. Or whatever days. We have a flexible time off policy where we’ll approve your request as long as:
– You ask us as far in advance as possible,
– You clear it with your colleagues, and
– There’s no big project deadline or customer visit
“The Golden Rule”
First and foremost, we have this policy in place because this is the way I want to be treated. Sometimes there are perks to being a founder! Although we started this company before I was married, before I had kids, before I coached youth soccer and baseball teams, before I joined my local Rotary club, before I served on my City Council, and before I had really *any* family or civic responsibilities, I knew the one thing I wanted was flexibility and respect of my time. Wherever I’m at I give 110%, but with that I also want the freedom to pursue the things I both enjoy and the parts of life that can’t always be scheduled for the weekend. If my kids have a Christmas program at 1 PM at their school, I want to be able to go. If the doc can squeeze me in at 10 AM on a Thursday, I need that time off. If I decide that when it’s 70 degrees on November 22nd in Wisconsin and probably the last nice day of the year before 4 months of snow, maybe I’m going to plan to take off at 2 PM.
At the end of the day, if this is the way I want to be treated, this is the way I should treat other people. Thus, Prominic’s flexible time off policy has been part of our culture since we started in 1998. We may not be the only company to do this nowadays, but I bet we were one of only a very small number back in the 90s.
Don’t Want to Micromanage
Something interesting happens when you treat people like adults: they act like adults. I want to grant my employees and coworkers the freedom to solve their own problems and manage their own time, without constantly running to me for a solution. I also have no desire to be the traffic cop for a given team, managing working hours, schedules, and daily deadlines. We’re a small company, but we have a number of teams and a number of people who tend to work with each other on a regular basis and thus depend on each other in some ways to get their work done. Obviously, we can’t have our entire customer support team taking off at the same time, so before they even come to me with a request for time off, they work out their schedules amongst themselves. This empowers them to manage their own time and fosters an environment of mutual respect. They know their actions affect others, and they also know they depend on each other. We have a culture where I’m going to cover for you when you need a break because I know you’re going to cover for me when I need one.
And all of this happens without talking to “the boss”.
Systems of Lies
Do you know what happens when you give people 15 vacation days, 5 sick days, and 2 personal days? You set them up to lie to you. You know that sick day that was used? Yeah, really they were at the ballpark. As business owners and managers, why do any of us remotely care *why* one of our employees is taking time off? Why do we create different categories of “time off”, when there are 10 times as many real reasons that don’t fit neatly into one of the categories? Why are we forcing employees to justify why they need time, and arbitrarily judging that one reason is better than another?
This game is stressful for the employee and certainly a waste of time for me as a business owner. On some levels, it’s none of my business why you want time off! I don’t need to know what crisis is happening at home and I don’t need to know about the procedure you’re having done to you to fix your personal medical problem. Nor should you be forced to explain that to me.
The reality is we rarely, if ever, deny a request for time off. Sometimes we’ll work with people to adjust the days, but honestly, the teams usually handle that themselves long before it gets to me. To be clear, this is less about unlimited vacation (because taken to the extreme…you get the picture), but more about flexibility and recognition that life doesn’t fit neatly into a schedule. Surprisingly, time off is a deeply personal issue. Different people need different amounts, and even that changes for individuals over time. By recognizing that employees have personal interests and demands that can’t always be scheduled outside of rigid work hours, we’re simply acknowledging reality.
And what’s better than having flexible policies that reflect reality?
Curious to know how we select our employees?