Time off? Go Ahead—Take the Month

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Summertime—a great time to kick back, read a book, and relax.  How about some time off?  How about an entire month?

Sound fun—or crazy?  While taking a month off may seem like the next big perk, it could actually put your company ahead in innovation, problem-solving, and retention.

In 2016, Glassdoor offered survey results for 25 top companies who mean it when they say take some time off.  With the continued blur of work/life schedules, more job candidates are asking questions like, “Well, sure, you have this kind of time off policy—but do people really take it?”

Here are some of the top companies and their time off policies:

  1. Biotech company Amegn, located in Thousand Oaks, CA: New employees start with three weeks off, plus two week-long shut-downs during summer and winter holidays.
  2. Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, New York City, New York: With up to 20 vacation days, float days, sick, and personal days, Sloan Kettering  employees comment that no one makes them feel guilty about taking time off.
  3. Swedish retail giant IKEA, headquartered in Stockholm, Sweden: Earning time off from day one, IKEA employees can get up to three weeks of time off per year, and upward with additional years of employment.
  4. Search monster Google, located in Mountain View, California: Starting with three weeks off, employees can build up to five weeks off with five years of seniority. Google also offers up to three months of “unpaid sabbatical.”
  5. GMO agritech company Monsanto, in St. Louis, Missouri: With up to four weeks off by the second year, Monsanto also offers time off between Christmas and New Year. 

These companies rank high with their employees for providing generous time off and not making their employees suffer for taking advantage of it.  But there is another type of “time off” where employees stay on the clock.

In 2013, the media heralded the vague end of Google’s vaunted “20% policy.”  This was supposedly the one day a week when Google employees were allowed to work on projects about which they were passionate—like AdSense, Gmail, and Google News.  While the experimental time may still exist at Google, it appears to do so within the confines of regularly scheduled productivity.  When former Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer was asked about the policy of her former employer, Google, she replied, “”I’ve got to tell you the dirty little secret of Google’s 20% time. It’s really 120% time.”

Somewhere between personal time off and Google’s late 20% off policy are other ventures that expect employees to get their work done—and let them attend to business-building ideas as well.  Jason Fried, former CEO of software engineering firm 37signals, now Basecamp, has theories about work and where is the best place to get it done.  In his 2010 TED talk, Fried discussed the realities of where work does—and doesn’t— happen.

Fried also wrote in the The New York Times Sunday Review about giving employees a month off.  In addition to compressed and shifting work schedules during the summer, Fried gave workers time to set aside nonessential work to explore their own ideas while still providing deliverables.  At the end of the month, employees pitched their ideas.  The “month off,” it turns out, was “ultraproductive.” In a TED talk, and in his business, Fried urges people to “be more productive, take time off.”

In a competitive economy, employee time off is important.  So is the kind of time off that produces innovations. Companies that offer both have a greater chance of continued success.

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