In 2014, the leadership at social media management company Buffer noticed something odd. Despite an unlimited leave policy implemented in 2012, employees were barely taking any holidays.
To encourage people to take more time off, Buffer – which employs remote workers globally, primarily in the US and Europe – introduced an incentive: a $1,000 annual holiday bonus to each employee (and an additional $500 per partner or family member). It was a roaring success. In fact, it was too successful, costing the company too much money. Buffer pulled the plug on the policy in June 2016.
Later that year, Buffer changed tack: instead of offering unlimited leave, it decided to strongly encourage employees to take a minimum of 15 work days off per year. Using an online planner, employees input leave requests and HR personnel track the number of days people take off via a collective calendar.
Buffer’s minimum leave policy is unusual, even for a tech company. Unlimited time off is a much more common perk among start-ups and other tech firms – but despite the name, unlimited leave can feel like anything but. Often, workers are at the mercy of their workloads, managers and company culture, a situation which can discourage people to take a fair amount of leave.