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Unlimited Paid Vacation at byte5: a First Assessment

It has been one year to the day that the byte5 unlimited paid vacation model was launched. Have there been any positive surprises? Negative developments? And will the management stick to the model?

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Exactly one year ago today, byte5’s unlimited paid vacation came into force. The award-winning model attracted a lot of attention in the media and our social environment.

Today we want to take a look back to the year that has passed since 1 July 1 2019. Has the progressive model proven itself in practice? How have vacation and work organisation changed? Have there been any surprises – whether positive or negative ones?

Our Review

Last summer, with the first publication of an article on our unlimited paid vacation model, the public broadcaster, Hessenschau, started a media avalanche. This was followed by television and radio interviews and a bunch of newspaper articles. Our unusual approach – unlimited paid vacation based on mutual trust – attracted both advocates and critical voices. The latter suspected self-exploitation, resentment among colleagues or employees who were absent for weeks. Proponents, on the other hand, praised the practical implementation, including the freedom to choose between a traditional holiday model and a trust holiday; the jury of the New Work Star award spoke of “New Work at Its Best” and awarded us Gold.

Our Learnings

It is self-evident to us that change always carries a risk. We are all the more satisfied that exactly one year after its introduction, we can classify the unlimited paid vacation model as the absolute right step for us.

The model is not only based on our No Pain Policy, which enables the unlimited paid vacation in the first place, but also on the end of year feedback meeting, which includes the personal choice of team members between the two vacation models for the upcoming year. At the first big feedback meeting in December 2019, the team also made an optimisation suggestion with which we adjusted the new model: from 2020 onwards, every “unlimited paid vacationer” will define a personal guiding amount of vacation days in our online tool. This prevents the team from losing overview. In addition, it is visible at all times at how many vacation days the individual aims at and how many of them have been taken thus far.

© Pexels

Our First Assessment

The freedom of choice between the two models is at the heart of our vacation organisation. As one of the reasons for deciding against the unlimited paid vacation model, the respective colleagues named the absence of overtime accounts, which are filled by going on business trips, for instance. Because if you can take an unlimited amount of days off, reducing overtime doesn’t make any sense. byte5 alternatively pays overtime, which makes the classic vacation model more attractive for some colleagues.

However, the majority of colleagues have the unlimited paid vacation model: Currently, more than 60 percent of byte5-ers have opted for this. The percentage goes up to about 85 percent if you exclude trainees and employees in their trial period; they cannot yet use the new vacation model. Tita Biel, Head of Accounting and one of the driving forces behind the introduction of the model, assesses this past year:

byte5-Head of Accounting Tita Biel auf dem Umbraco-Festival Deutschland 2019

© Axel Gross

There was not a single complaint regarding the unlimited paid vacation. And nothing negative has happened.

Tita Biel, Head of Accounting

Looking at her numbers, Tita also reports that the amount of vacation days taken was within a range that is entirely normal for German employees. The large outliers often prophesied therefore failed to appear.

A meaningful, statistical evaluation of the unlimited paid vacation at byte5 has to wait a bit, though. Due to its introduction to the second half of 2019, the number of vacation days taken is not comparable to those of a full year: after all, many plan their vacation days for the whole year. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, 2020 will not be a representative year either.

Our Unlimited Paid Vacation Policy in Practice

What we can already determine is that the introduction of the unlimited paid vacation model means a saving of time worth several hours for the back office on the one hand and a general increase in team satisfaction on the other. It lies in the hands of each and every team member to decide how much time off they need each year – including everyone who uses the classic model. With the freedom of choice we grant, we maximise the individuality of work organisation.

© byte5

It is no wonder that applicants also extremely interested in the new vacation model and, above all, in the associated freedoms. We are observing that many applicants are looking for a job with a lot of creative freedom and self-determined work organisation. The popularity of our unlimited time off amongst applicants also shows in the fact that all team members who have been employed since 1 July 2019 have opted for the progressive model immediately after their probationary period.

Our Future

byte5 is dynamic. In exchange with the team, we will constantly check whether the unlimited paid vacation model as an addition to the traditional vacation model is the right one for us or whether it needs optimisation. Additionally, the byte5 management is always on the lookout for ideas where additional freedom would be possible and how it could be implemented into our business model. For instance, the monthly Perk Budget was introduced at the last turn of the year, which serves to personalise the team members’ workplace – be it with a job ticket, a new smartphone or a subsidisation for lunch.

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