4 Things They Aren’t Telling You About Unlimited Vacation Time

Summer is coming, America is slowly getting back to normal, and Americans across the country are checking their calendars to see when they can plan a vacation.  As crazy as it seems, the standard vacation time for a majority of people is two weeks.  Now that excludes business owners (who basically never have a set vacation time, teachers (who have a lot more than two weeks off) and those lucky enough to work at a company with generous vacation policies.  However many days you get for vacation though, you probably are always thinking to yourself, man II wish I could take off as many days as I wanted.

unrecognizable woman strolling along sandy beach

Well at some companies, and here’s a list of just a few, that’s an actual reality.  On the surface it sounds like a dream come true, but when you look deeper and deeper into these policies, you start to wonder if unlimited really actually means…unlimited.  Here’s a couple things companies won’t tell you about their “unlimited” vacation time policies.

  1. Unlimited Doesn’t Mean Come and Go As You Please:

Having unlimited vacation days sounds amazing, but people tend to think it means you can come and go as you please.  Unless you are the owner of the company (and even then it’s not necessarily the case) then maybe you can come and go when you want, 99% of employees need to let someone know if they’re going to be out for the day.  Most places understand if your kid is sick in the morning and you have to call out or you’re sick, or you have a flat tire and can’t get in to work, but you still have to communicate with someone.  This is especially true if you’re going to be out for a couple days in a row.  Just because it’s unlimited vacation, it doesn’t mean your responsibilities disappear.

architectural photography of gray granite swimming pool and outdoor lounge at beach side

2. Take Off…At Your Own Risk

With unlimited vacation time, you can certainly take off as many unplanned days as you need to, but as I said in the last paragraph, that doesn’t mean your responsibilities disappear.  If you’re part of a team, someone will have to pick up the slack for you, which for a day or two is okay, but if you decide to be out a week that wasn’t planned for (whether you need to take off or just want to) your coworkers aren’t going to be too thrilled to be doubling up their workload for an indefinite amount of time.  If you do feel guilty about taking time off during the day, you may even make up for it by working when you have some free time at night, so you may wind up not even feeling like you took any vacation time.

3. Get Ready to Feel Guilty

The one positive about a finite number of vacation days is that you know how many days you have to take off throughout the year.  When it’s unlimited, there is a bunch of gray area.  Then you start wondering how long you can actually take off in one shot.  Is it one week, is it two weeks, or can you take a trip to Italy and disappear for a month?  Depending on your relationship with the rest of your team and boss, you may never really get the feel for how much time is okay.  I’d recommend trying to find out what works for your team before you plan a two month cruise on the Titanic 2 (I think that was actually supposed to be a cruise ship name before COVID came and ruined cruises for a while).If you work on a team with over-achievers who are work-centric people, you may even feel guilty taking a long weekend to visit the Football Hall of Fame or the Mall of America.  Try and find out what the expectations are for your role and this may help in the long run.

silhouette of airplane

4. You May Get Passed Up For That Promotion

Ever heard of Wally Pipp? (I know baseball fans have)  Well Wally Pipp was the first baseman for the New York Yankees in 1925 (For those of you reading this who are under 25, 1925 was before YouTube and iPhones…they may have even rode horses to the games)…and one day, Wally Pipp showed up to the game with a headache and wasn’t able to start, so he was replaced by his back up, a guy named Lou Gehrig, who if you hadn’t heard, wound up being a pretty decent player to say the least.  The point of that little sports history lesson is that while you most likely be replaced if you don’t show up for work one day, if you have unlimited vacation time and are out on an African safari for three months, someone better than you at your job may be the person getting promoted instead of you.  Taking too much time off, even though unlimited, could hurt you in the long run when it comes to a promotion or being looked at as the strongest person on your time.

The moral of the story here is, if you do work for a company with “Unlimited Vacation Time” be very careful of how much time you take.  Communicate with your team as much as possible, and try and set expectations to make sure you are on the same page with everyone.  After all, you wouldn’t want to get Wally Pipped, would you?

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