At my company, employees can take as much vacation as they want. It’s virtually limitless, within reason. Vacation time isn’t “accrued”. You take it when you need it, as much as you want.

At first blush, this seems pretty damn sweet. As much vacation as you want? Score!

Vacation at the beach!

Here is the rub: My company also tracks your utilization time, which is time spent directly in support of a billable contract to a client. The greater your utilization, the larger your quarterly bonus.

Bonuses at my company easily amount to 20% or more of your salary in a given year.

Pinterest: Vacation policies are deceptively generousThe company also provides additional bonuses for those with an especially high utilization rate, effectively requiring no vacation time during the quarter – or working unpaid overtime to make up for hours spent away from the office…enjoying life.

Not only that, but each employee is given the opportunity to do even more work on internal company projects, known as “Management By Objectives”, or MBOs. These hours further expand the lucrative bonus potential. The opportunity to make crazy money is seeded deep within each of us. It consumes our work and influences our decisions whether we realize it or not.

Yo dude, did you get your high utilization bonus this quarter?

Yeah, and I probably need to take the wife out to dinner to make up for ignoring her over the past couple months.

Sweet, I got mine, too. Damn, money at this place is off the hook!

To the untrained eye, this is a pretty sweet deal. Unlimited vacation and huge bonuses. What’s not to like?

When vacation is unlimited, we take less of it!

There is plenty not to like about the way my company runs their vacation policy – for example, the way our human nature is exploited to maximize billable hours.

When vacation hours are limited and tracked – like they are at other companies – employees are encouraged to take time off to avoid losing that vacation time. “Use ’em or lose ’em”. But when they’re not and money is on the line, we feel compelled to work. Work a lot.

With another employer where vacations were limited, I remember working with a guy who had a couple weeks of unused vacation left during the holiday season and, refusing to let those hours go to waste, decided to take a two-week “staycation”, using that time to catch up on much-needed sleep and spend more time with his family. It was time well spent.

Further, some companies allow a certain number of unused vacation hours from the previous year to transfer over to the next. Also, if an employee leaves the company, any remaining vacation hours are paid out to the now ex-employee. A bonus for moving on!

In the end, what seems like a more stringent vacation policy works out in the employee’s favor. When vacation hours are virtually unlimited, we take less of them. When vacations are limited, we naturally want to get the most out of those hours and avoid letting them go to waste.

It’s a clever ploy, and it works.

The incentive to keep working

When companies like mine provide “unlimited” vacation hours, incentives keep the staff working. At my company, that incentive is money – and lots of it. Just piles of cash.

A 20% yearly bonus spread out quarterly demands attention. It keeps many of my co-workers slaving away at the office for many hours, focused entirely on sacrificing freedom for the sake of the almighty greenback. We work instead of relax. Rather than spend time with our families, we travel for business.

Most of us can work from anywhere. Company-issued laptops are the norm, and the expectation that we work from our homes is always there. In fact, my company “encourages” staff to check their email periodically while on vacation, “just in case”.

Perhaps my company doesn’t understand what “vacation” actually is. They do, however, keenly understand the psychology of man.

And based on our vacation policy, they successfully encourage their staff to ignore the need for rest and relaxation in exchange for money…money that can be used to buy stuff like big cars, large homes, televisions and cell phones, requiring us to keep that source of income in place, endlessly working in a wicked cycle of freedom-killing decay.

How important is your vacation to you?” they implicitly ask with a policy like this. “You can take as much time off as you want, but if you work until you literally can’t move, there’s money in it for you.

Finally, I am taking vacations

Over the past 12 years working in corporate America, I rarely took a vacation. Instead, I worked. At companies that would buy back unused PTO every year, I’d pocket the monetary equivalent of those hours. An additional half paycheck!

A taste of freedom has changed that for me. My current employer has one of the most relaxed vacation policies that I’ve ever seen, but I’m taking more vacay than ever. I won’t get my high utilization bonus for the remainder of the year, but I honestly don’t care.

I’ve come to realize that the money just isn’t worth it. My health and happiness come before bonuses, high salaries and cleverly deceptive PTO policies at work.

How generous is your company with PTO time? Are your vacay hours limited?

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