Paid Vacation Time Off – Benefit or Bane – By John Hendrie

There was a time when negotiating a job offer was like picking fruit off a tree – the benefits and perks were in season and ripe for harvest. The drive was to attract talent with anything that might work to intrigue and hook the candidate (and his spouse). Times were high, and that benefit slice of the full compensation pie was significant and ever tasty.

There was a time when negotiating a job offer was like picking fruit off a tree – the benefits and perks were in season and ripe for harvest.  The drive was to attract talent with anything that might work to intrigue and hook the candidate (and his spouse).  Times were high, and that benefit slice of the full compensation pie was significant and ever tasty.
Employees tend to forget that a company by law only needs to provide Unemployment Insurance and Worker’s Comp.  Anything else is just gravy.  Sadly, the last twenty or so years we have seen that side of gravy disappear (along with a number of our colleagues).  We have been in a time of cost-sharing and give-backs (take-aways to many). 
The current Employee Benefit package is quite basic: some insurances with medical a big item, paid time off, usually some type of 401 (k) and perhaps some other side interests, like continuing education or dental coverage (at cost).  Top talent is still chased with a flurry of enticements, but the breadth and value has diminished.
We in Hospitality have never, ever been a leader in this aspect of the employee relationship.  Matter of fact, we have always kicked and scratched our way towards any benefit enhancement. 
Companies in other sectors can still be adventuresome, like Apple and Facebook, with their expansive plans, for example, to offer female employees “egg freezing”.  As NBC News reported, “egg freezing allows women to put their fertility on ice, so to speak, until they’re ready to become parents. But the procedure comes at a steep price: Costs typically add up to at least $10,000 for every round, plus $500 or more annually for storage”.  Quite an expense but also a real investment in their women.
Paid time off has not changed too much – personal, sick and vacation time are still very standard, but, interestingly, the United States citizen has a reluctance to enjoy some.  Fellow countries particularly in Europe have extremely liberal policies, and their residents take advantage, often a month at a time.  Beyond the work ethic in the US, many of us are always watching that dark cloud in our consciousness, which thinks “out of sight, out of mind, out of work”.  Foolishly, we believe we need to be on the scene, or everything will collapse.  Or, even worse, we were not missed at all, and we have become, like the Brits say, “redundant”.  We are stunned when we return from our scheduled time off to find that everything is quite all right.  But, given the vast divestiture of human capital by companies, we are always suspect, and rightfully so.  Even on vacation, which was designed to reenergize our engines and inflate our spirits, we are on guard; it is hard to relax.  It is refreshing to hear of one company with a different approach for their senior employees – The Virgin Group.
Here are the Virgin Vacation day parameters, as explained by Sir Richard Branson:  “…Simply stated, the policy-that-isn’t permits all salaried staff to take off whenever they want for as long as they want. There is no need to ask for prior approval and neither the employees themselves nor their managers are asked or expected to keep track of their days away from the office. 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, 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!”
My, oh my, we still have accountability and a new factor, trust, as part of this template.  Treating people like adults, too!  And, to think that one could return to work rejuvenated.  We just have to wait patiently to see what Sir Richard will tackle next – maybe communications, perhaps employee involvement or even management style.  It will be worth the wait!
 
LRA LogoJohn Hendrie is the author of the LRA blog, focusing on anything and everything about customer experience. LRA Worldwide is the leading global provider of Customer Experience Measurement services for multinational companies with complex customer interactions. For over 30 years, LRA’s innovative brand standards audits, quality assurance inspections, mystery shopping programs, research, and consulting services have helped ensure our clients deliver consistent, memorable, and differentiated experiences to their customers. Many of the world’s preeminent global hospitality brands, as well as companies in the gaming, dining, healthcare, sports and entertainment, real estate, retail and travel industries choose LRA to help them measure and improve the customer experience.  For more information, visit www.LRAWorldwide.com.