"Unlimited Vacation Days:" Why It May Not Be as Awesome as It Sounds


Unlimited vacation time could be the greatest idea ever. Or not. (Thinkstock)

With his call for unlimited vacation days, Virgin founder Richard Branson may very well usher in a new era of rested and satisfied workers who avoid burnout and enjoy a more rewarding work-life balance.

Or maybe he’s trying to drum up more business for his airline.

Either way, Sir Branson’s vacation proposal — which he announced on his blog — is an intriguing one. Branson writes that he’d heard about how Netflix doesn’t track its employees’ vacation days or require workers to ask permission to take days off. “It is left to the employee alone to decide if and when he or she feels like taking a few hours, a day, a week or a month off,” Branson writes.


Richard Branson revealed his company will stop tracking its employees’ vacations. They can take off as much time as they want. (Photo: Thinkstock)

Branson has introduced his no-limit vacation policy to Virgin’s offices in the U.S. and U.K., with plans to extend it to subsidiaries should the move prove successful. ”Flexible working has revolutionised how, where and when we all do our jobs,” he writes. “So, if working nine to five no longer applies, then why should strict annual leave (vacation) policies?”

Related: Take a Vacation Already! Some Companies Are Paying Bonuses for Time Off


Taking a vacation whenever you want to — is it too good to be true? (Photo: Thinkstock)

Just think about it: Being able to just stroll into work and announce, “Ya know — I’m gonna take an extended beach vacation in Maui next week. I’ll be back … whenever.”

But before you get your skis and swimming trunks out, there may be some downsides to an unlimited vacation policy. Let’s look at the pros and cons:

PRO: Unlimited vacation days!

Need we say more? No longer would you have to keep track of how many days you have left in your bank. No more skipping that ski trip you want to take in November because of that long hiking trip you took back in June. If this unlimited vacation policy were in effect at your workplace, you could plan your time off with wild abandon.

Cheryl Rosner, CEO and co-founder of boutique hotel booking site Stayful, is ecstatic about Branson’s announcement. Her company also doesn’t track its employees’ vacation days. “We work from where it makes most sense to work,” she tells Yahoo Travel. “Sometimes that is in one of our offices. Other times it may be from home or elsewhere.”

CON: But how many of them would you actually take?


We all daydream about vacations, but a lot of Americans don’t get around to actually taking them. (Illustration: Thinkstock)

According to a survey sponsored by the U.S. Travel Association, 40 percent of American workers don’t plan to take all their vacation days this year. ”That’s 429 million unused days,” Rosner estimates, adding: “Thirty-three percent of Americans don’t take their days because they can’t afford to travel. This negatively impacts our economy as well as our health.” If so many workers already don’t, or can’t, use the limited time off they do get, how can we expect them to take advantage of unlimited time off?

WATCH: Report: U.S. Only Rich Country Where Paid Vacation Not Guaranteed

PRO: You can take vacations any time.

You are the master of your vacation schedule.

CON: But you’d better be smart about it.

Using Netflix as a model, Branson says employees can enjoy unlimited vacation policies with “the assumption being that they are only going to do it when they feel a hundred per cent comfortable that they and their team are up to date on every project and that their absence will not in any way damage the business — or, for that matter, their careers!”

Translation: If you make a habit out of “feeling comfortable” taking trips to Bali during crunch times at work, you could soon find yourself on a permanent vacation.

Related: 8 Tips on How to Quit Your Job and Travel the World

PRO: Everyone will be rested and productive.


Well-vacationed workers are happy workers — and these people look like they had a great trip! (Photo: Thinkstock)

In his blog, Branson reveals it was his daughter who first turned him on to the idea of unlimited vacations. He says she told him, “‘I have a friend whose company has done the same thing and they’ve apparently experienced a marked upward spike in everything — morale, creativity and productivity have all gone through the roof.’”

Stayful’s Rosner tells Yahoo Travel that’s exactly what her company gets out of its own unlimited vacation policy. “We want everyone to recharge when they want or need to and to take the time they want or need to,” she says.

CON: Everyone will be nervous.


What good is a vacation if you spend all of it stressing over whether you picked the wrong time? (Photo: Thinkstock)

Ever sit at a work meeting stressing over finding an appropriate time to excuse yourself? Now imagine trying to do that with a two-week vacation. Without a set-in-stone vacation allotment, there’s evidence that people might start stressing over the time they are taking off. A study conducted for Ask.com found almost half, 48 percent, of U.S. adults worry about how much personal time they can actually take from their job.

PRO: More Americans might travel.


Branson’s advocacy of unlimited vacation days wouldn’t have just a tiny bit to do with him owning an airline, would it? (Photo: AP)

If U.S. workplaces were to adopt unlimited vacations, we could see an increase in tourism. That thought is almost certainly crossing Branson’s mind as he promotes Virgin’s new policy. And Stayful’s Rosner wouldn’t have a problem with that either. “Our passion and purpose at Stayful is to help make travel more affordable so people can travel and travel more often,” she tells Yahoo Travel. That could just happen if vacationmania sweeps through the American work force.

CON: More Americans might travel.


If THIS is what vacations will look like, we’d rather just stay at the office. (Photo: AP)

That’s just what crowded airplanes need: more people.

So what do you think? Is Branson right? Would it be a good thing if U.S. workplaces stopped keeping track of employees’ vacation time and just left it all up to them? Or is it a bad idea? Vote in our poll below, and sound off in our comments section.

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