Recently, there seems to be more and more organizations such as IBM, Netflix and Ability Partners that are in the news because these organizations are offering unlimited vacation or more and more flexible working hours. The March 9 online article in Fast Company, “Unlimited Vacation Doesn’t Create Slackers-It Ensures Productivity” addresses this topic. Traditional management thinking would say this makes no sense as it will create slackers who take advantage of such a generous policy. However if you really think about this, it makes great sense.
What managers and leaders should be concerned with is the output someone produces. If the quality and quantity of work is defined and agreed upon by all parties involved, why not let people work as little or as much as it takes to achieve these levels?
Of course there are some positions where this is simply not possible such as work that is dependent on the output or input of someone else, but in today’s environment where more and more work is mental, creative or somewhat independent; it may make sense to provide this additional benefit. This is especially true when technology allows us to stay connected 24/7 so if something important does come up while on vacation a person can be reached.
It really comes down to managing the right thing. In many organizations people manage the activities of the workforce. Managers want people to be “busy.” They worry about people using company time to do personal business. In reality, what managers should be focused on is the output. If someone does their defined work at acceptable levels of quality and quantity, however these are defined, does it really make any difference how long this takes and what the worker does the “rest of the time?”
Managing output is a lot tougher and takes a lot more work that managing activity. It means the managers need to do a better job of defining outputs. It means managers must trust their workforce and create dynamic workplaces where this sort of culture can exist. Let’s hope this is not a fad born out of a recovering economy but a trend that leads to a better workplace for everyone.