Join 3,557 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


take a vacation whenever you want
September 2, 2009 5:55 AM   Subscribe

Netflix's awesome vacation policy -- famous for crowdsourcing, Netflix is now making waves with its employee handbook. (via fs)
posted by kliuless (84 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
This previously is when I ended my subscription. (They apparently brought the profiles back, but their cavalier attitude towards the most loyal, power-user base keeps me away.)
posted by DU at 6:02 AM on September 2, 2009


Read further and you find: "... Netflix's time off policy is rare, and only applies to its 300-plus salaried workers, not the much larger hourly workforce." Phooey!
posted by Carol Anne at 6:05 AM on September 2, 2009


Early on, a lot of it deals with workplace efficiency, and not being afraid to let someone go if they’re not doing their job. The idea is that if someone just wants to do mediocre works, that’s fine, they’ll get a nice severance package.

So the "take as long as you want" policy is basically tempered with "we think people are just a commodity and we'll pay the going rate or a little more to get the best of what′s available, and pass on the rest." Which means that if you take even a day more that the guy in the cubicle next to you, you're going to have to be afraid that your boss is going to use this against you.

I'd rather have the vacation policy that's the norm over here in the Netherlands.
posted by DreamerFi at 6:06 AM on September 2, 2009


reading their employee handbook is making me think of all the places I've ever worked and how much they sucked compared to netflix. They basically admit all of the problems of office life up front, and put forth plausible solutions and strategies to fix them. damn.
posted by Jon_Evil at 6:15 AM on September 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


I'd rather have the vacation policy that's the norm over here in the Netherlands.

Well, that's sort of comparing apples to coffeehouses, isn't it? And that's not really what the handbook / slide presentation says (about "if you even take a day more than the guy next to you"...)

As someone who has worked in the US all my life, I'm finding this "handbook" to be pretty outstanding, and a potential model for how a business perhaps ought to be run. In fact, I wish I could turn back the clock and present this to any number of the idiot managers I've butted up against in the past when I was doing (by these metrics) what was probably outstanding work, but they didn't think so because I wasn't coming in early / staying late / kissing ass the way I should have to keep them happy in their little ivory tower of unimportant power.

I even know where the Netflix facility in my area is. I should go talk to them about a job, I think.
posted by hippybear at 6:16 AM on September 2, 2009 [3 favorites]


Actually, IBM has the same open vacation policy. The execs love it, because it turns out that on average people take less time off. When you tell your highly-overworked employee "Take as much vacation as you want, but you'd better get everything done," there's actually more pressure (from peers, from the employee's own sense of responsibility) to delay or not use vacation time.

Even though fixed vacation days are annoying and Americans never get enough of them, they're a contract between two unequal parties, employer and employee. Tearing up such a contract never goes well for the employee.
posted by xthlc at 6:18 AM on September 2, 2009 [40 favorites]


This Netflix, is it unionized?
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 6:22 AM on September 2, 2009


Reading this handbook makes me want to invest in this company. It does not make me want to work there.

This kind of cultural norming seems likely to lead to much more voluntary employee self-sacrifice than a strategy that supplies clear indicators of expectations. It's classic behavioralism: if the rat pushes the button and there's always a treat, he's less habituated than if he pushes it and there's only sometimes a treat.

Arbitrary and capricious evaluations of excellence that expect everybody to be above average, combined with a strong ethos of "the company's best interest" are all about habituating self-abnegation: success is our achievement, failure is my fault.

This is very close to the attitude in the university, with one exception. I wish universities could consider some version of the "no asshole" principle: brilliant jerks aren't worth it.
posted by anotherpanacea at 6:26 AM on September 2, 2009 [20 favorites]


brilliant jerks aren't worth it.

Flagged as truth you little shit.
posted by OmieWise at 6:30 AM on September 2, 2009 [3 favorites]


I would think that the open vacation policy would be very tough for employees to navigate, at least starting out. I mean, you still have to schedule time off, obviously, so everyone isn't gone at the same time. So then, you schedule your four weeks, because that's what you want and you figure you're fine, but then Bob schedules four days, and . . . Yeah. There has to be some guideline other than, "Get your work done." I'm with xthlc on that part of it. The pressure to not take vacation would be terrible. Even with three weeks of guaranteed time, there's pressure where I work as a manager.

I do like their talk about context versus control. That's something that seems like it could work really well with the right type of employees. And I don't think their policy on "generous severance" is a bad one. Many people in the U.S. work "at will," so it's not really that different. It's just saying, hey, if this guy's not doing the job, find someone else. Considering how many people are looking for work, it's always amazing to me how some are willing to just coast along and get by.
posted by dellsolace at 6:36 AM on September 2, 2009


brilliant jerks aren't worth it.

Even when they cure cancer
posted by scrutiny at 6:36 AM on September 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


I think this does provide for managers to set clear indicators of expectations, anotherpanacea. I also think that the salary business is very wise; right now most firms tacitly encourage people to go job-hunting after a couple or three years, because that's the only way to materially increase your salary. I left a place that explained to me that I was so valuable to the company, doing great work, a "star", etc., but that they couldn't promote me to the level I was performing at before they promoted someone else who started off at a higher level than I did. They offered me a decent raise, but not as much as I made by changing firms.
posted by Mister_A at 6:40 AM on September 2, 2009


(They apparently brought the profiles back, but their cavalier attitude towards the most loyal, power-user base keeps me away.)

It seems a bit silly to boycott a service for something they did that they admitted was a mistake and fixed almost immediately... unless there's something else you don't like?
posted by Huck500 at 6:44 AM on September 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


Arbitrary and capricious evaluations of excellence that expect everybody to be above average, combined with a strong ethos of "the company's best interest" are all about habituating self-abnegation: success is our achievement, failure is my fault.

Every time I am told that I am expected to exceed expectations, my head starts to spin and then I black out. On the plus side, this livens up my weekly meetings with my manager.
posted by Copronymus at 6:49 AM on September 2, 2009 [5 favorites]


I actually like having a fixed number of vacation days, that I can fully take without anyone commenting. A lot of my coworkers have families and vacations are expensive for them — they aren't going to take two or three weeks per year. I don't particularly want them to be setting a norm that I stand out from.

I also wonder about these Netflix workers that are taking three or four or five weeks in a row. That seems like it only works when a job is "generic" enough that one of your co-workers can just pick up the slack. If you have a unique job role, and you can stop doing it for five weeks...
posted by smackfu at 6:52 AM on September 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


This looks like fools gold. Give me my 8-4 M through F with my 2 weeks vacation per year. I'm not pitted against my fellow employees to "Outshine" them. I say I'm taking these days off and I don't feel guilty nor does my boss make me feel that someone else is doing more than me. I have guidelines that are clearly stated to me and I know what is expected. If I go above these guidelines I am rewarded for it. With Netflix it sounds awesome on paper but in real life I doubt it is all that is advertised. I also doubt that the average worker could say "Hey guys I'm taking a month to tour Southern France... Au revoir
everyone!" and expect his job to be waiting for him when he gets back.* Also honestly who here can stand being with their families for over a week anyways?

*Yeah I know that most people wouldn't take a month off but when you say unlimited vacation time this is what comes to mind for me. What good is unlimited vacation time if you can't do something exciting with it?
posted by Mastercheddaar at 6:56 AM on September 2, 2009 [3 favorites]


Well, that's sort of comparing apples to coffeehouses, isn't it?

Of course it is. Mark it of as item # 243 on my list of reasons not to want to live in the USA..
posted by DreamerFi at 6:58 AM on September 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'd rather have the vacation policy that's the norm over here in the Netherlands.

Do you guys have that annoying thing where everyone takes off in one month in the summer?
posted by smackfu at 6:59 AM on September 2, 2009


That seems like it only works when a job is "generic" enough that one of your co-workers can just pick up the slack.

This is true if you're doing hourly, procedural work, as they describe it. Or if you view your work as a series of tasks to be performed rather than concepts to be delivered.

I imagine that if I worked in an environment like this, I'd be looking to take vacation breaks after long periods of intense sustained effort tying to implement a vision that I had some ownership of, rather than just taking a big vacation in the middle of a project my manager assigned to me and told me I had to get done.

It's a completely different mindset, and I really like it.
posted by Ickster at 7:01 AM on September 2, 2009


This is going to sound snide, but I think that there are a lot of people in this thread that have never had to manage other people. At many companies, there's already a lot of overlap between personal and company time - answering emails late at night, going to the doctor at your lunch hour, etc. It comes down to the manager's style of managing his or her staff–how much flexibility is appropriate? This varies from dept. to dept., I'm sure. If you want/need to take a week off, you go talk to the manager well in advance - as you would anywhere - and request the time off. Now it's the manager's job to figure out how to fill that gap. I doubt people are taking 5 weeks off in a row, barring some personal/family/medical emergency.

I am sure there are some dick managers at Netflix who grief you every time you request a 3-day weekend, but if the company holds to its stated ethos in some small degree, I think that those managers would not last too long. Hey, I could be all wrong, maybe working for Netflix is a total salt mine situation, but it seems like they are going out of their way to create a culture that values flexible employees and provides a flexible working environment for them.
posted by Mister_A at 7:04 AM on September 2, 2009 [4 favorites]


You know, I loved this. I forwarded it to my boss. I was in sales for most of my career and that is the ultimate meritocracy. You either sell, or you don't. If you do, you make more money and get more perks.

As for vacation, take what you need. My current company didn't have any qualms about shutting down for 5 days this year, with no pay for any of us. They did what they needed to do in the economic downturn. I take all of my vacation and I don't make any apologies. A real, good company will realize that rested, refreshed employees are much better than burned out employees.

When I read the document I didn't see it as a way of pitting people against each other, but rather, every one is encouraged to be the best in their job. Imagine what it would be like working with people who are as great at their jobs as I am at mine. What an awesome place to be! Having a boss you can respect. Having co-workers who pull their own weight. I'm pretty close to that in my current job.

I think it's about fit. Either you flourish in that environment, or you don't. If you don't, then, "hey, nice knowing you, faults on both sides," and that's the end of it.

Personally, if I were in the market for a job, I'd seriously consider Netflix.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:08 AM on September 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


Do you guys have that annoying thing where everyone takes off in one month in the summer?

All my doctors do! Which is why I ALWAYS get sick in August...
posted by kathrineg at 7:11 AM on September 2, 2009


I work at an NGO with European roots, and a lot of international staff. I was thrilled to find that we got four weeks of vacation from the get-go, but even more so to find that taking two weeks at one time was considered completely routine. And taking three weeks off is not uncommon. Benefits are only as good as the organizational climate that surrounds them. At my last job, taking anything more than a week at a time required layers of approval, and you were given the stink eye.
posted by kimdog at 7:17 AM on September 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


Are there no Netflix employee MeFites to give us the inside story? Why not? What does it say about a large company, none of whose employees joined us? Or are they too loyal to speak up? Or are they all on vacation?
posted by Obscure Reference at 7:18 AM on September 2, 2009


The reviews over at Glassdoor make for interesting reading.

I had a similar experience over @ Viacom a while back. They had this policy of half-day Fridays during the summer. I quickly discovered that those who took advantage were thereafter marked as slackers by both their peers and middle mgmt. Top brass, oblivious to the reality, loved the policy.
posted by MeatLightning at 7:19 AM on September 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


I'm fairly sure my company has an official vacation time policy, but I'm also fairly sure no one knows how much time they're supposed to have off. In practice, it's take the time you need, as long as our work is getting done. I had an unusual vacation opportunity this summer, so I took three weeks off. Most years I take no more than a week, so I figure it evens out. And, though the timing honestly could have ended up being better, no one gave me any grief for it.

This is pretty normal at smaller companies. What may be distinctive is Netflix is trying it in a larger company.
posted by rusty at 7:39 AM on September 2, 2009


Are there no Netflix employee MeFites to give us the inside story? Why not? What does it say about a large company, none of whose employees joined us? Or are they too loyal to speak up? Or are they all on vacation?

Jeez, dude, this was only posted two hours ago. Maybe they're watching a long movie.
posted by box at 7:43 AM on September 2, 2009


Give me my 8-4 M through F with my 2 weeks vacation per year.
Workers do argue for their chains, just like the man said.

It was even more mind-boggling to me as a Brit with a paltry seven weeks' holiday a year to find that many American workers don't even take their full 2-week allowances.
posted by fightorflight at 7:47 AM on September 2, 2009 [8 favorites]


Are there no Netflix employee MeFites to give us the inside story? Why not? What does it say about a large company, none of whose employees joined us? Or are they too loyal to speak up? Or are they all on vacation?

They're busy feeling guilty about what they did in 1990?
posted by cillit bang at 7:54 AM on September 2, 2009


Fuuuuu ... HR meeting ... on MetaFilter .... make me sleepy.
zznnnngkkkgkk... whuh? oh sorry, think I drooled on the desk..

...You mean it's OK to sleep on the job? YAY TEAM NETFLIX! ggggzgzggzzzzzznnkk
posted by not_on_display at 7:56 AM on September 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


@fightorflight: many American workers don't even take their full 2-week allowances over the course of two years

Fixed that for you.
posted by plinth at 7:57 AM on September 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


An interesting thing about a "take days when you need them, as long as you get your work done" policy is that it means that employees never build up a bank of vacation hours, which would otherwise show up as a liability on the company's balance sheet. Most companies (especially in Silicon Valley) let hours roll over year-to-year, up to some cap. This is essentially a floating balloon of corporate debt that might be called in at any time.

And it's absolutely true that a vacation policy with no defined entitlements in a star-performers-only meritocracy is going to result in fewer man-hours lost to vacation per year.

Considering their compensation package's focus of minimizing benefits, maximizing wages, their policy of rarely fighting to keep any good employee who wants to leave, and health insurance with don't-get-sick high co-pays, I'd say that Netflix has just found a system for attracting young, independent (single/childless) people, working them hard for a few years, and then sending them off when they start to burn out or desire greater stability. There's not necessarily anything wrong with that, but this isn't a one-size-fits-all corporate policy for everybody everywhere.
posted by GameDesignerBen at 8:01 AM on September 2, 2009 [17 favorites]


Having worked at large companies where the 'process' was stifling and required lots of middle managers to create and enforce all these process rules (but had nothing to do with actually producing or selling anything), I loved the whole section on process.

But there is some unrealistic idealism in this presentation:
"Whether Netflix is prospering or floundering, we pay at the top of the market."

So if you are floundering, where is all this money coming from to pay these high salaries? If you are going to make promises you can't keep, might as well promise to cure everyone's cancer too.

Overall, though, loved it.
posted by eye of newt at 8:04 AM on September 2, 2009


They're busy feeling guilty about what they did in 1990?

Glenn Beck works for Netflix, now?
posted by dirigibleman at 8:06 AM on September 2, 2009 [5 favorites]


I worked for a (very small) company that proclaimed to have this, but it was utter transparent BS. I'm not sure if the utter transparent BSy aspect was more the company (as most things were like this) or the policy, but yeah, the result is that everyone really frets over taking vacation because it calls into question whether they are "getting the work done", whereas if you have N number of days, those _are your days_ and it's less of an issue taking them. Plus, as anyone knows, really, anyone at all, especially in software (which is what Netflix does, more or less), there is no end to "getting the work done" - it's an ever-shifting target, and the idea that it's some measurable goal is nonsense.

I used to think the no-set-vacation-policy policy was the best, now I'm totally suspicious of it. Give me four weeks and let me be.
posted by xmutex at 8:13 AM on September 2, 2009 [4 favorites]


It was even more mind-boggling to me as a Brit with a paltry seven weeks' holiday a year to find that many American workers don't even take their full 2-week allowances.

I get about two weeks and change, and don't like to dip into it too much because it's in effect my severance (as far as I know severances are not common in this field/industry). I do have some emergency funds to fall back on in case of job loss, but I prefer having the extra cushion of the saved vacation (that is converted to cash in case of job loss).

Also, we do a 9 hour a day schedule with every other Friday off. It's flexible, and it's nice, but it has its drawbacks. One, a lot of doctors aren't actually open on Fridays. Two, if you end up running an errand or something and have to work an extra hour, now you have to tack it onto a *nine* hour day, making the day really long.
posted by RikiTikiTavi at 8:16 AM on September 2, 2009


Glenn Beck works for Netflix, now?

He hasn't denied it.
posted by cillit bang at 8:21 AM on September 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


"So, Mr. Jones, I noticed you took a total of two weeks off last year. Of course, you're entitled to take as much time as you need. But is everything okay? Do you need to take some more time? I hope whatever personal issues necessitated that time off are now behind you. But unfortunately, I can't recommend you for a raise this year, you know, because of those issues that took you away from work. But, hey, listen, you take whatever time you need to sort things out, okay? Jenkins filled in for you last time, and he's ready to jump in again if you need it, so don't worry about things piling up when you're gone, okay? Hey, take the rest of the day off while your at it, no problem."
posted by Pastabagel at 8:29 AM on September 2, 2009 [4 favorites]


At my last job, taking anything more than a week at a time required layers of approval, and you were given the stink eye.

I thought that the US abolished slavery some time ago?
posted by PeterMcDermott at 8:40 AM on September 2, 2009


brilliant jerks aren't worth it.

There will always be jerks, but the brilliant ones are more likely to get their work done and go on vacation so that we don't have to deal with them (at least for a little while). It's the stupid jerks that rally wear on you. They never get anything done and they're always around.
posted by solipsophistocracy at 8:54 AM on September 2, 2009


Do you guys have that annoying thing where everyone takes off in one month in the summer?

That's more a result of having kids. School vacations are pretty the driving factor in lots of people taking their vacation days at the same time of year.

The benefit of not having kids is that you can go on a vacation during a different part of the year, and your trip will be a lot cheaper as a result.
posted by DreamerFi at 8:56 AM on September 2, 2009


Interesting ... but Netflix has it pretty damn easy from a management perspective. It is in a business which is unregulated and very unlikely ever to be regulated. It provides services which are useful but inessential to its customers. Its customer base is consumer and pre-paid: no credit risk, no sales force, no contract management, no contract compliance. It has virtually no product liability or other consumer litigation exposure. It does have Sarbox and the need to keep Hollywood happy, but that's about it.
posted by MattD at 8:58 AM on September 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


This is essentially a floating balloon of corporate debt that might be called in at any time.

Even worse if you want to lay people off, and you have to pay off their vacations in addition to severance. Especially when you are trying to trim some fat at the top, where people have 4 or 5 weeks of vacation but don't use it, and are reliably banking 1-3 weeks a year.

It was even more mind-boggling to me as a Brit with a paltry seven weeks' holiday a year

Is seven weeks really low for a Brit? Like, does a "good" job have 10 weeks, or are you just joking? Also, are you including bank holidays? Americans generally aren't including holidays in their vacation day total. Holiday day != vacation day for us. Where I work, that's an additional 12 days a year.
posted by smackfu at 9:04 AM on September 2, 2009


...everyone really frets over taking vacation because it calls into question whether they are "getting the work done"

If you aren't sure whether or not you're getting your work done -- you probably aren't getting your work done.
posted by spilon at 9:08 AM on September 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


I had a similar experience over @ Viacom a while back. They had this policy of half-day Fridays during the summer. I quickly discovered that those who took advantage were thereafter marked as slackers by both their peers and middle mgmt. Top brass, oblivious to the reality, loved the policy.

I've seen this kind of thing happen and I absolutely hate it. If it is policy you should not look down on someone utilizing it. I don't let my employees do that sort of thing, and I won't do it to anyone else.

People need to learn how to "work to live" more, and do less "living to work"
posted by Big_B at 9:08 AM on September 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


I thought that the US abolished slavery some time ago?

That's a common misconception. Its just marketed differently these days.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 9:09 AM on September 2, 2009


Netflix's reputation around the bay area is basically that they pay pretty well compared to comparable roles at other companies, but that's more than offset by the rather lacking workplace environment. The atmosphere there has pushed out some pretty good people - and no, they weren't jerks.
posted by NoRelationToLea at 9:15 AM on September 2, 2009


they're a contract between two unequal parties

Yep. My company is required by national law to make me take 26 days of vacation every year, with no dribbling them all away a day at a time (one vacation each year has to be for at least two weeks) and no carrying days over to the next year. And it doesn't matter whether I've worked there one year or ten -- if I change jobs, I'll start at the new company with 26 days of annual vacation (minus the days I've taken off this year at the old company). If I don't take all 26 this year, I and my boss and the people in HR will get into trouble no one can afford to be in. This is the only way to avoid being pressured into working too much for companies that naturally don't really give a fuck about you. You want national health care? Start with some mental health.
posted by pracowity at 9:15 AM on September 2, 2009 [9 favorites]


Many American white-collar workplaces -- especially ones filled with software developers -- don't enforce a 40-hour work week. Is it that huge of a leap to imagine that one workplace doesn't enforce a 50-week (or 49-week or whatever) work year? However, as many others have observed, an unenforced 40-hour work week often leads to more 50-hour weeks than 30-hour weeks. This policy probably has the same effect.
posted by mhum at 9:27 AM on September 2, 2009


This is essentially a floating balloon of corporate debt that might be called in at any time.

Where I work, we just overhauled our vacation policy specifically to get rid of this debt, so our balance sheet would look better. Now we have this lovely system where you get your full allotment of vacation at the beginning of the year, none of it carries over year-to-year, and if you happen to use all of it up in January, then get fired in March, you have to pay back the amount that wouldn't have yet accrued under the old system.

whoopD doo.
posted by nomisxid at 9:27 AM on September 2, 2009


Contrary to what they claim, 300 salaried employees is not a large company. It is small enough that everyone pretty much knows everyone else, or at least what they do. The real challenge will be trying to scale this plan up.
posted by JackFlash at 9:30 AM on September 2, 2009


Actually, IBM has the same open vacation policy.

Incidentally, this is not quite true. They don't do any tracking of vacation time, but the number of days per year is limited like any other company. When the article says "each of the 355,000 workers is entitled to three or more weeks of vacation", it really means people start with three weeks, and can move up to four weeks eventually.
posted by smackfu at 9:40 AM on September 2, 2009


I thought that the US abolished slavery some time ago?

1865 in most states, 1995 in Mississippi.
posted by kirkaracha at 9:40 AM on September 2, 2009


Yeah, 300 salaried employees really is tiny! Also, I don't think that the vacation policy is the very best part of the whole thing, there... I acknowledge that it could be abused, though I think that good managers won't let this happen.
posted by Mister_A at 9:44 AM on September 2, 2009


Is seven weeks really low for a Brit? Like, does a "good" job have 10 weeks, or are you just joking?

I suspect he's joking. FWIW, I get 5 weeks, plus bank holidays (10 a year or so). The legal minimum is 28 days per year, which includes bank holidays.
posted by Infinite Jest at 9:46 AM on September 2, 2009


I think having a sane legal minimum like the British (is it all of Britain or just England?) is a great idea.
posted by Mister_A at 9:48 AM on September 2, 2009


They lost me at "high employee co-pay". I wonder how many international superstars they manage to attract?
posted by carmen at 9:56 AM on September 2, 2009


This is essentially a floating balloon of corporate debt that might be called in at any time.

Debt usually bears interest. And the sense in which it can be "called in" really busts the analogy. As liabilities go, accrued employee vacation is just about the best kind.
posted by Kwantsar at 9:59 AM on September 2, 2009


We have the same system as nomisxid's company does, but I actually like it. What it meant when I started at the company is that I didn't have to wait a year just to be eligible for paid vacation, which was something I was dreading. Once you get past your three month probationary period you can use vacation time. I've moved up to three weeks vacation a year now, and the "use it or lose it" aspect means I'll make sure I use it. There's too much to do and see in this world to miss out on paid days off.
posted by azpenguin at 10:03 AM on September 2, 2009


The reviews of the company on Glassdoor posted by MeatLightning seem to bear out the concerns others have raised here.
"In May 2009 Netflix took away sick/vacation hours and provided employees an additional dollar an hour pay and then advised all employees to open up their own savings account to save for unexpected days off."

"Cons: Unlimited vaction that never happens. Forced OT without a thank you. Constant turnover. While I was there I saw at least an average of 20 employees a week being let go for simple petty things."

"The unlimited vacation also sounds good on paper, but it is almost impossible to take time off. They keep the employees in the dark and then chastise and even terminate their employment for doing something wrong."
posted by verb at 10:27 AM on September 2, 2009


Is seven weeks really low for a Brit? Like, does a "good" job have 10 weeks, or are you just joking?
No, seven weeks is definitely in the reasonable range. (It doesn't include bank holidays, but for those who do, you can usually take them whenever you want -- you aren't forced into long weekends when you don't want them).

I was mostly joking, but do know of a lot of Europeans who would still see The UK's 5-7 weeks as paltry. And we all look with horror at the US situation, naturally.
posted by fightorflight at 10:36 AM on September 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


I get 4 weeks of vacation, 2 weeks of sick time, and 12 holidays per year. That's 6 weeks, 2 days off every year and 10 sick days if I need them. I cannot complain.

There's no way I'd switch to the "take what you need" system. Somebody above mentioned severance coverage. It's huge to have even 2 weeks of extra vacation balance if you get laid off.
posted by mrgrimm at 11:05 AM on September 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


This kind of thing is all well and good when you have a motivated workforce, but it would never work in a lot of places. I hate management techniques that depend on peer pressure to be effective.
posted by winna at 11:10 AM on September 2, 2009


Yeah, but what sucks about that, mrgrimm, is that you have to ration your days in case you get laid off and then your last check is gobbled up because you used up more than the pro-rated number of days you've supposedly earned, which is totally fucked up.
posted by Mister_A at 11:11 AM on September 2, 2009


Still, 4 weeks is awesome (in the US), good for you!
posted by Mister_A at 11:12 AM on September 2, 2009


Yeah, should be noted here that holiday days also very rarely have a noticeable impact on your bottom line if you're laid off in the UK -- the usual is to not be paid for any you haven't taken, but your leaving date will be brought forward to take account of them.

The mandatory and contractual notice periods are much more notable -- I got an extra three months' pay last time I was laid off. And then an extra two months for time in lieu of notice because they wanted us to go right away.
posted by fightorflight at 11:18 AM on September 2, 2009


Well, hey UK, are you guys hiring?
posted by Mister_A at 11:38 AM on September 2, 2009


Used to know some way up the food chain in Netflix HR. She said a lot of people in HQ were unhappy, that a common comment among people departing, and there were plenty of them, was that people are treated like Kleenex.
posted by ambient2 at 11:53 AM on September 2, 2009


When you tell your highly-overworked employee "Take as much vacation as you want, but you'd better get everything done," there's actually more pressure (from peers, from the employee's own sense of responsibility) to delay or not use vacation time.

Sounds like academia. Think professors get summers off? Hah!
posted by painquale at 11:55 AM on September 2, 2009


Interesting. I love any experiments to increase workplace flexibility. But does that mean that there is *no* vested vacation to pay out at termination? ...
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 12:21 PM on September 2, 2009


I work for myself. I haven't had a vacation since 1999*

* I also take a lot of time off every day, and work pretty casually most of the time, so it evens out.
posted by maxwelton at 12:41 PM on September 2, 2009


You guys should read this Glassdoor review; it is an (almost) note-perfect description of life at Netflix for an experienced CSR.
posted by maqsarian at 12:59 PM on September 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


When it takes a company 128 PowerPoint slides to explain to me why they're not like other companies, I'm not really buying it.
posted by DarlingBri at 1:02 PM on September 2, 2009 [7 favorites]


LOLUSians
posted by mr.marx at 2:36 PM on September 2, 2009


I agree that this "all you can eat unpaid vacation time" probably serves as a honeypot more than anything else.

I've worked in several companies where the vacation time rolls over every year. Inevitably, people use their accrued vacation days as bragging rights. "I have 297 vacation days accrued, HR keeps bugging me to take time off, but I'm just so very important and busy, I simply can't."

Soon everyone has to pretend they're too busy to take time off, or risk being labeled "dead wood" come the next round of layoffs.
posted by ErikaB at 3:30 PM on September 2, 2009


mrgrimm: There's no way I'd switch to the "take what you need" system. Somebody above mentioned severance coverage. It's huge to have even 2 weeks of extra vacation balance if you get laid off.

Would you switch to a system of mandatory redundancy payments? In Ireland, we get two weeks pay for every year served plus one extra week's pay. That's just the statutory requirement. In most fields that are unionised, the contracts are vastly more generous than that.

Recently, a national travel agency closed and the workers occupied the building in protest because the three weeks they were offered - that's one week per year over the legal requirement - wasn't good enough. They ultimately settled for five weeks per year with a load of extra payments lumped on top for the longest serving workers - I think some had served in excess of eleven years.
posted by DarlingBri at 4:43 PM on September 2, 2009


Incentivised systems like this bring to mind the torturer's game.

"Of course you'll tell me what I need to know. You don't really want to lose a kneecap, do you?"

equals

"Of course you'll only take what time off you need to. You don't want to be fired on arbitrarily-conceived grounds that are as feel-good as they are fascistic, do you?"

equals

"We here at Netflix believe that time off benefits the company if it benefits the employee. If an employee doesn't look out for the company, we let them go. Simple as that!"

"Ex--" Cough to clear throat. "Excellent idea sir." Didn't work. Eyes watering, cough again. Voice cracking. "Moving forward we'll drill down our teamwork paradigm shifting sir. Maximize DVD delivery is that game heh heh." Hard swallow. "Guess mom only will die for a week heh heh." Self-consciousness makes face turn hot. Turn walk back to desk. "Shit. God I need a new job and if this were Baltimore I'd pop a cap in his ass gangsta style." Sit fart into chair. "Maybe I can tell Candice that we can do a weekend trip to Vegas and that will be as fun." Click click. ctrl+l. "I wonder if I should go to Specialty's again." ctrl+l special down down enter. "Oh, look, Popular Cable Show has a Discount Overpriced Polycarbonate Disc Deluxe Set with commentary by fat white people with fake tans. I wish I was a writer. I'll go on Metafilter." Click meta down enter.

But no. I don't like that. I like what I have. I like my ethnocentric xenophobia, my social conditioning and my tapwater fashionably stagnating in a treated aluminium container that undoubtedly contains shavings of something that'll give us all brain cancer. It's the standard corporate American existence, but people here love what they do, there's very few of us and we all cover for each other, like in Brazil. Totally unlike Commonwealth/EU countries, which, by all accounts on Fox News, are where workplace happiness goes to die, get ground into gelatin and spooned into gawping corporate/governmental suck-holes. The difference is that you get a bunch of vacation time in which to overdose/hang/poison/shoot* yourself when that becomes necessary.

Suckers. We're ahead of the game in the good old US of A. We're paying into the slowest mass-suicide program there is.

*Only available in eastern Europe and Finland. Stabbing available where applicable, including Manchester, Marseilles and other mid-sized populated areas starting with capital letters. Inquire about more details with your local non-integrated Asian/Middle Eastern immigrant population dealer.
posted by electronslave at 7:15 PM on September 2, 2009


Yeah, but what sucks about that, mrgrimm, is that you have to ration your days in case you get laid off and then your last check is gobbled up because you used up more than the pro-rated number of days you've supposedly earned, which is totally fucked up.

Well, yeah. That's why you always stay ahead. If you absolutely have to take time off work and it can't be canceled/postponed, take sick days. If you're sick a lot, yeah, it's always a problem in the US.
posted by mrgrimm at 9:45 PM on September 2, 2009


I had a similar experience over @ Viacom a while back. They had this policy of half-day Fridays during the summer. I quickly discovered that those who took advantage were thereafter marked as slackers by both their peers and middle mgmt.

I currently work for Viacom, and my group opted for the variation of this policy where you get every other Friday completely off. Everyone in the group takes their alternate Friday off, from the VP on down.

Also, I've taken an international vacation at least 3 weeks long each year I've worked here. When projects that I've been working on have slipped their launch dates into my scheduled trips (through no fault of mine), my boss's attitude has been that the project would wait until I got back.

I feel no pressure to bank vacation. I get 4 weeks/year paid, and have an explicit option to take another 3 weeks/year unpaid. At the end of September, I will have a balance of 2.63 hours saved up.

I think a lot of it depends on your management chain.
posted by aneel at 9:48 PM on September 2, 2009


@kimdog Benefits are only as good as the organizational climate that surrounds them.

This.

@fightorflight Workers do argue for their chains, just like the man said.

Not this, although it sounds deep.

The American 40 hour work week and two week vacation has been virtually scientifically designed to wear out the worker just enough, while still keeping them as efficient as possible.
Both the "take a vacation whenever you want" and the "fixed vacation days" are flawed. I like the idea of mandated vacation days that pracowity mentioned, but the reason we won't see that in the US is the same reason we rarely see workers in the US protest anything.
posted by jeremias at 5:08 AM on September 3, 2009


but the reason we won't see that in the US is the same reason we rarely see workers in the US protest anything.

And that reason is at least partly because some US workers are happy to argue in favour of the things that bind them, like terrible employment laws and no vacation time, just as some uninsured folks are out busily protesting healthcare reform. Hell, that European lazing about on holiday weeks is just socialism too, isn't it?

So, er, "that" still holds, regardless of how deep it sounds.
posted by fightorflight at 10:52 AM on September 3, 2009


They argue for those things because they are scared that if they get them, their jobs will disappear and they will lose money and health care because there is no safety net. I think what we can do is help people feel less anxiety about their survival and they'll be able to come to the employment table as equals, not as frightened subjects.
posted by kathrineg at 11:11 AM on September 3, 2009


When Netflix was about to open up their customer service center in the Portland area a few years back, I interviewed for the training manager position there. My first interview was with the people from the CA headquarters, and it was awesome. We had a great conversation about their principles of self-direction and giving the service reps the leeway to do whatever they thought was best to make things right, and about big idea training concepts and things.

Then we got to the second interview, with the people picked to actually head up the OR location... and it was like taking a hundred steps backwards. Way more about controlling procedures than the freedom espoused by the first group. I ended up happy not to get that job.

So the impression I ended up with, and that seems to be borne out by the conversations I've had with people who did go to work at that center, is that they have some great ideas and policies that are very well implemented at their original location and with their higher level employees, but they get pretty lost the further you get from that group. Sad, but not necessarily unexpected.
posted by polymath at 11:44 AM on September 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'll take my three months off a year, thanks. I don't get to choose when to take it, but a two-month block when I don't have to think about work at all is golden. My union would flip out if they heard me say this, but getting paid $60,000/year for working 9 months is the deal of a lifetime. And I like my job! I teach first grade.
posted by Huck500 at 8:50 PM on September 4, 2009


« Older Free Beats. Classic Beats. Lost Beats....  |   After hearing our show about ... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments