At Braintree, we don't have a vacation or sick day policy. Nothing. Nada. We don't track days off. We don't allot a certain number of days based on tenure.
The usual questions that follow this statement are: 'How does that work?,' 'Do people actually show up?,' and my favorite, 'Do you get any work done?'
Here are the answers I like to provide:
How does that work?
Not having a policy works quite well. We are all adults here, and we like to be treated as such. By trusting our employees to act responsibly, we inevitably make them feel more independent, more a master of their own fate, if you will. The focus is then put on getting work done instead of how often teammates show up. Sick? Please stay home and get better. Want to take a trip? Great! Make sure you check in with your team prior to taking off.
An example of this working is when I went to Iceland in September of last year (yes, it was awesome). I was going to be away for two weeks and it was essential that I wrapped up loose ends prior to leaving. I gave everyone a healthy notice, made sure someone would be able to take care of the essentials, and took off knowing and trusting that my duties were in good hands for the time I was away. I did check my email once or twice, but all in all, things went smoothly. Having a successful experience like this made me want to help out my fellow ‘treeps even more. So, when a teammate wants to take a long weekend (or a long vacation), I am very willing to reach out and help where I can.
A common critique of open vacation policies is that people don't actually take vacation. We do - I went to Iceland, someone else took a staycation last week, and another teammate headed to Australia for three weeks.
Basically, we put stock in each Braintreep to make the right decision - to come to work, really own what they do, be passionate about it, and, if need be, take some time off here and there without docking days. This approach also decreases the costs associated with tracking days off.
Do people actually show up?
People show up, and they show up to work hard. We are extremely diligent with our hiring processes, making sure we attract people who are not only intelligent and capable, but who also want ownership over their work product. Ultimately, we are each held accountable for what we produce, making 'treeps passionate about the work they do.
Do you get any work done?
Yes. We get a ton done here. We use Parkinson's law as much as possible to avoid time traps - as the saying goes, 'work smarter, not harder.' We hack processes to make them more efficient and effective. Our approach has yielded incredible results: a team of over 90 doers, #47 on the 2011 Inc 500 list, being the disruptor in the space, receiving funding from Accel, and creating an atmosphere in which we get work done, and done well.
I do partially credit our approach to time off with the amazing success we have experienced since 2007. It's an awesome change to the typical corporate approach, a fantastic recruitment tool, and has worked extremely well for us thus far.