Why unlimited holiday is so much more than a perk
Starting this year, Manifest London and Manifest New York now offer all employees unlimited holiday. When I have mentioned this to friends, family or others in the industry, people often look bemused. Frequently, they proceed to tell me how this will undoubtedly result in having an empty office most of the year. Some people think about it for a second and smile, before giving me a knowing look and saying something along the lines of, ‘that’s a great perk to offer – good idea’. Both reactions miss the point.
Helping to attract the best talent to Manifest is simply one of the positive byproducts of introducing unlimited holiday – it is far from one of our key motives. In reality, people react this way because unlimited holiday breaks one of the traditional stereotypes of work: holiday allowance. Something I feel actually carries a clandestine toxicity. Rather than opening ourselves up to the risk of people abusing the system, we actually see unlimited holiday as avoiding the broad gamut of risks presented by the status quo. Here are just a few problems (exacerbated by the annual holiday allowance structure) that we are nipping in the bud:
Reduce stress and improve job satisfaction: Just last week, PR Week published a recent study that highlighted PR as one of the most stressful professions. Like most people, I filed that particular headline under ‘total bollocks’ – but the suggestion creative professionals don’t suffer from stress at all, or that our jobs don’t involve professional pressures, could be just as easily filed under ‘self deprecation’ or worse still ‘bravado’. Holidays are essential for letting off steam, and for balancing those work pressures within a broader context. It’s easy to get stuck in the cave of shit, where work consumes all, so as an employer it’s important we help people get the hell out of it. It’s not just for their sake; often the people most dissatisfied with their jobs are the ones that don’t give themselves a break from it. Encouraging people to take more regular breaks is something we believe will help us to keep our awesome team, as well as helping them to look after their mental health.
End the ‘fakecation’: One of the principle drivers of us making the decision to introduce unlimited holiday was seeing great team members ‘using up’ their holiday instead of using it properly. When you have a holiday allocation, there is a natural disposition to save it, rather than spend it. By treating holiday days as assets, people see booking holiday as somehow becoming ‘poorer’ in holiday terms. The result? People taking a week off in November or December to use their holiday allowance – often going nowhere and sometimes not even switching off from contact with the office – simply because they haven’t used the allowance on a proper holiday. To further combat these ‘fakecations’, we also offer interest-free holiday loans to those people who need a break but can’t immediately afford to disappear to somewhere warm and/or relaxing. A holiday should be a holiday, not a week twiddling your thumbs on the sofa in December because you didn’t book anything earlier in the year for fear of using up holiday you might need later on.
Give creativity the space to breathe: Taking breaks away from the status quo is essential if you are involved in creative work of any kind. It’s not just about taking a break from work, but taking a break to allow your mind to wander and remember how to think creatively rather than practically. It’s important to be able to lift yourself out of the day-to-day to get a strategic view and if you haven’t had a holiday in a while, that’s so much harder to do. In her article, ‘The importance of uselessness’ Maria Hill says, “Many people think of being busy as the same thing as being engaged. Often we are made to think that slowing down is a kind of disengagement, even an abandonment of our responsibilities…. When we are being very busy in many we ways we are increasing our disengagement with life. We stop asking important questions about what we are doing and why.”
Holidays lift the shroud of day-to-day responsibility & allow you to see the bigger picture. They aren’t simply a welcome rest from the daily grind, they actually make you better at your job.
Improve client service: It might sound like a contradiction, but client service is actually improved when our team has unlimited holiday entitlement. It means the team aren’t fighting for the same dates to take off (the week before Easter, the Friday before a bank holiday etc) because those days are no longer high-value commodities. People can take a long weekend whenever they want, not just at the end of May. As such, the balance of attendance is far more consistent. On top of this, teams are recharged, passionate and full of new ideas due to taking more regular breaks.
Taking all of this into account – and realising that this trust based system is not likely to be abused by a team that both care about the business and wish to keep the policy – the traditional holiday allowance process begins to look pretty archaic. So, long story short, to those people who balk at the idea of unlimited holiday: it isn’t primarily a perk or a benefit, it’s just common sense. It’s not a new risk to manage, it’s an opportunity to mitigate the spectrum of risks inherent in the ‘usual way’ of doing things. Risks we have simply become accustomed to because ‘that’s the way it has always been done’.
Well, not any more it isn’t.