Monday, July 1, 2019
Unlimited paid vacation, or “vacation of trust” as we call it, – at byte5, this is the new normal. Each team member can take an infinite number of days off, and its paid. This new vacation model has been in force since 1 July 2019. Our unlimited paid vacation was also a hot topic in the media these past days.
As much vacation as you want? While this may sound strange to some, others are enthusiastic about the corporate culture that makes this model possible. The latter is the case with byte5: Here, employees have the option of spending an unlimited amount of vacation days, as long as they take into consideration their own tasks as well as their colleagues’ needs.
Two years ago, we started our multi-level trust movement by making our workplace more flexible, for instance in enabling remote work. The next step was the termination of core working hours. Now, we have gone one step further: We gave the traditional holiday model a total overhaul.
But how can it work? The answer is already in the German name: mutual trust between employer and employee. “We trust our employees and we trust in their skills. We are convinced that everyone knows best their position in the company and which tasks come with it, how they have to be completed and when in order to successfully finish projects”, says CEO and founder Christian Wendler. The new model is made possible by the agile corporate culture that already existed.
byte5 is intrinsically motivated to set up as few rules as possible. But don’t be fooled: the introduction of this new model does not mean that every team member can just go on vacation at any given point time without prior arrangements. It is rather based on personal responsibility and the conviction that time is not the only method to measure work. Our principle: result orientation. “Our ‘vacation of trust’ works because we practice a no pain policy. This means that the personal freedom extends to the point where it could cause ‘pain’ to another person or the project. Each employee coordinates their tasks with their colleagues and clients and makes sure that their reach their own goals.” The no pain policy also enables the free organisation of working hours that we have practiced in the past year and a half as well as the flexible home office, none of which have caused any issues since their introduction.
Additionally, the team still has to have their time off approved. Just the capping of days was abolished. There is no restriction to the unlimited vacation model. The only requirement is that the trial period has been successfully completed.
While the unlimited paid vacation model may be a dream come true for the byte5 team, reality looks different: many employees deal with expired vacation days, countless hours of overtime which they cannot take, which can cause frustration and overload. This is in stark contrast to byte5, one of the first companies in the IT service sector in Germany to take the courageous step of granting unlimited paid vacation. byte5’s founder is convinced: “It must be in every company's own interest to always work for the well-being and motivation of its team members.” Among other things, this includes sufficient vacation for the whole team.
We are leading the way with our alternative model, which also brought us some media attention. We gave many interviews to several TV and radio stations, daily newspapers and online magazines who all wanted to discuss our multi-level trust campaign.
New work means flexibility and individualisation. But are there downsides, too? Self-exploitation or even exploitation by the employer? Before the introduction of the new holiday model, the byte5 management dealt extensively with these and other complex questions, never neglecting to discuss ideas with the team. byte5 is aware that models such as our vacation policy can have pitfalls, but comes up with individual solutions to issues that come up.
In order to avoid that some team members don’t take enough vacation days in a year, we have two methods. On the one hand, every employee in Germany is entitled to a statutory minimum of 20 days of vacation per year. We take this very seriously and help our employees find a healthy balance between work and relaxation. On the other hand, we grant freedom of choice: the trust vacation model is not imposed on anyone. At the end of each year, every team member can decide for themselves whether they want to use the traditional or the new work model.
The other extreme is that a team member takes an above-average amount of vacation days. This is not excluded, nor should it be. The trust-based vacation model can only work if each team member acts independently and with consideration for their own tasks and their environment. If everything the corresponding position requires has been done, an above-average number of vacation days is no issue at all.
© Dirk Beichert
For Christian Wendler, the advantages of the new work culture are obvious: “Family friendliness, self-determination and an individually designed leisure organisation – our experience shows that all of this has a positive effect on the atmosphere at work and consequently on the employees’ performance. For us, granting an infinite number of paid days off is the next logical step in our journey. We are dedicated to transferring the existing model of steady employment into the age of new work.” During the preparation period, we were in exchange with other companies that had already introduced this model. It quickly became apparent that on average, more days off are taken, but with overall efficiency and satisfaction rose along with it. Thus far, more than half the team has opted for the new model.
We are fully convinced by the models we have introduced: no more core working hours, flexible remote work and now the unlimited paid vacation policy. With our multi-level trust movement, we have thus far only had good experiences, which proves to us that we are on the right track.