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Making unlimited holiday work

Unlimited holiday is a very contentious issue. If you’re on LinkedIn a lot, like I am, you’ll see lots of people extolling unlimited holidays as the best thing since sliced bread, and an equal number of people saying it’s a con meant to stop people from taking time off. I am firmly in the first camp, and I’ll tell you why.

Unlimited holiday is all about treating your team like adults. There is no situation in life where grown adults need to ask permission to do something they want to do - apart from in the workplace.

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When a company offers unlimited holiday, it's saying to its team: we aren’t the arbiters of your time, we trust you to decide how much time off you need.

We trust you to make thoughtful decisions around managing your workload in relation to your time off.

However, for an unlimited holiday policy to really serve your team and be the amazing benefit it looks to be on paper, this trust in your team must be paired with a culture that encourages a healthy work/life balance

Teams must feel empowered to take their time off and not feel any guilt or receive any negativity for doing so.

Managers must lead by example by taking leave regularly - at least once a quarter - and encouraging their teams to take time off if it’s been a while since their last holiday.

Teams must be adequately resourced so that people can take time off without the burden of concern hanging over them the whole time they’re on leave, stopping them from really being able to switch off.

Failing that, teams need to accept that if someone’s off on annual leave, some things might not get done, and that’s ok!

Ultimately I believe that an unlimited holiday policy is the ultimate recognition that we are not put on this earth purely to work. Work has become a significant part of our lives - most of us will work for at least 30 years solidly, if not more. 

I’ve personally been in the situation in the past where I’m having to choose between two things I really, really want to do or experience because I’m running low on holiday days. It’s soul destroying.

We work in order to be able to live the most enriching, exciting, fulfilling life that we can. Work getting in the way of this by restricting the amount of time you can take for yourself, to me, is some dystopian nightmare.

Unlimited holiday encourages us to look at our teams in the long term.

So what if Mary in finance took 56 days of holiday this year. The next year she might take less, the year after somewhere in the middle, but who cares if she is doing her job well, meeting all outcomes expected in her role and contributing positively to the company and culture long term.

It all evens out in the end. Treat people like people, recognise we aren’t here purely to work, allow people to live freely and have fulfilment outside of their job. Encourage rest and recuperation and watch your team flourish.

To me, that’s what unlimited holiday is all about, and I wish more companies recognised this and put this people-first policy into action.


Laura Holcombe is an experienced talent acquisition professional