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Vacation time was mandatory at startup SimpliFlying



woman smiling beach
was mandatory.


  • Vacation
    time was mandatory during an experiment at a small startup
    called SimpliFlying.
  • Employees had to take one week off every seven weeks,
    and if they got in touch with the office while they were away,
    they weren’t paid for that vacation week.
  • Productivity and happiness increased
  • There’s evidence suggesting that unlimited vacation
    policies don’t necessarily encourage employees to take time

Work can be nerve-racking. So can taking a day off.

Which is why many modern employees are guilty of checking their
email, Slack, and voice messages while they’re supposedly out of
the office: What if something super urgent or important
transpires and the only person on the planet who can deal with it
is you?

At SimpliFlying, that
attitude just isn’t acceptable. SimpliFlying is a global aviation
strategy firm with about 10 remote employees. Recently, the
company experimented with mandatory vacation time: one week off
every seven weeks.

The really shocking bit? If an employee got in touch with the
office while on vacation (say, through email or Slack), they
didn’t get paid for that vacation week.

The results are described in a
Harvard Business Review
article by Neil Pasricha, director of
the Institute for Global Happiness, and Shashank Nigam, CEO of
SimpliFlying. (They worked together to implement the new policy.)

After 12 weeks of experimentation, Pasricha and Nigam had
managers rate employee productivity, creativity, and happiness
levels. As it turns out, creativity rose 33%, happiness levels
rose 25%, and productivity rose 13% from before the experiment.

Other companies have unconventional vacation policies to
encourage their employees to recharge

SimpliFlying isn’t the only organization to implement policies
that make it easier for employees to take time off.

Business Insider
previously reported
that the CEO of Steelhouse, a marketing
and advertising company, gives employees $2,000 a year to use on
a vacation. The company also takes a three-day weekend every

Why not just offer unlimited vacation time, and let employees use
their own discretion? After all, that’s what big companies like
Netflix and Twitter do.

Another article in the
Harvard Business Review
(which focuses specifically on the
US) describes why that’s not always a viable alternative. Many
workers are wary of taking time off, whether because they worry
about how much work will be waiting from them when they return,
or because they think they’re the only person who can do their

And, as Laura Roeder
wrote for WeWork
, having an open vacation policy can be
confusing, because no one knows what an acceptable amount of
vacation time is.

To be sure, the SimpliFlying experiment wasn’t without its
drawbacks. Employees had two main complaints with the new system.

One week off every seven weeks was just too frequent, given that
the company is so small. So Pasricha and Nigam tweaked it to one
week off every eight weeks going forward. Employees will also
need to stagger their vacation time so there aren’t back-to-back
absences on a single team. 

As Nigam wrote in a
blog post
on SimpliFlying’s website, “I have seen not only
personal growth in each SimpliTeam member, but also development
in each of their work. I dare say this experiment is a win-win.”

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