– Unlimited vacations – but no one takes advantage of the offer
At Goldman Sachs, CEOs can have as many vacation days as they want. This sounds heavenly, but there is a catch.
Investment bank Goldman Sachs has recently made a name for itself with its surprise vacation policy: It wants to give CEOs unlimited time off in the future.
This is an attempt to attract and retain the best talent in a highly competitive job market. At the same time, it is a response to the vociferous complaints from younger employees a year ago about inhumane and sick working conditions on Wall Street – 95 hours a week with only five hours of sleep a night.
This holiday model has been known in the tech industry for more than ten years. Netflix does it, Linkedin does it, and in Switzerland fintech startup Advanon in Zurich, which was celebrated in 2017 and then faltered and absorbed into CG24 Group, has done it, too. Meanwhile, the company has adapted the concept, says CG24 president and founder Christoph M. Muller. In his view, the “leave to discrimination” model primarily functions as a marketing gimmick.
Fighting the inner tamer
Because what seems like heaven has its hurdles at second glance: Employees who are allowed to take unlimited vacation don’t take advantage of the offer. They often take less vacation time than if they had stable vacation credit.
This resulted in one A much-cited study by an American startupThat employees who might decide to be absent took an average of 13 days a year. On the other hand, high-spec employees were taking an extra two days off per year. A company spokeswoman did not want to reveal what Netflix’s balance sheet would look like.
What are the reasons for this contradictory behavior? In this context, Cornelia Nossel, a work psychologist at Zug, talks about “internal stressors.” This may discourage people from taking vacations when they are allowed to. “It’s the kind of inner voice that drives these people and puts them under stress. It usually comes from childhood — maybe it’s the critical parents or your constructing thinking,” Nossel says.
“Unlimited holidays are ultimately cheaper for companies than if there were burnouts.”
Cornelia Nossl, Organizational Psychologist
Such internal stressors simultaneously reduce the ability to focus and perform. Research shows that people who experience internal conflict with these drivers almost always do more than others who do the same work without them: “And you don’t look at them.”
That is why such people are often close to exhaustion, and self-management is limited: “They are no longer able to take care of themselves and take vacations, although this will be urgently needed.”
In principle, Nussle finds this vacation model worth checking out because it allows needed people to leave if they feel overwhelmed. In the end, the company will be cheaper than if it were burnout.
Andreas Krause, a labor and health expert at the University of Applied Sciences and Arts Northwest Switzerland (FHNW), also cautioned: “Whether the holiday model means benefits and more freedom depends on the employees’ working environment.”
From research on trust-based working hours, it is known that employees who can organize their own hours work on average more than the time the clock strikes. This can also be applied to the special form of “leave of trust”.
Teams should openly discuss how to handle liberties. Only then will it be useful.”
Andreas Krause, industrial psychologist
If performance pressure is high and there is a risk of savings or job loss, employees will hardly take time off. If the work environment is appropriate, people can certainly take advantage of the freedoms available, says the occupational psychologist. Then it’s a deal between employer and employee: You give more, and in return you get more freedom than anywhere else.
A company that relies on this holiday model must ensure good working conditions and achievable goals. Good social interaction is also needed: “Competition within the workspace is harmful. Employees and team leaders need to discuss how to use liberties with each other. This is the only way to bring benefits,” says Krause. Otherwise it is nothing more than hidden saving measures.
At Goldman Sachs, senior executives often work more than 80 hours a week and are rarely allowed to take time off, despite their ability to. But the bank also decreed: All employees are required to take 15 days off a year in the future, five at a time. Vacation as a duty. This is drastic – and it can lead to success.
Simon Lucita He is the business editor at Tamedia. The German teacher writes mainly about work and for many years about technology and cybersecurity. She also completed additional training in data journalism.