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Taking a Vacation from Vacations

It’s sad. Used to be, you’d spend 50 weeks a year waiting for your vacation – two blissful weeks without ringing telephones, raging bosses, insane assignments, bottomless responsibilities, weirdo co-workers and life-threatening paper cuts. Now, you don’t get two weeks vacation and 50 weeks work. Now, you get 52 weeks of vacation and, if you can squeeze in a day or two of work, well, what kind of sucker are you?

At least, that’s the way it feels at certain hyper-groovy, totally with-it companies, like the three technology rocket ships highlighted in a recent article by Liz Torres on Monster’s website.

According to Torres, who, I believe, could use some time off herself, “unlimited vacation days are not only a great recruitment tool, but they also reflect a positive work culture that values its employees.”

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Only a person who has spent too much time in the sun would come to this conclusion. You know full well that if companies are offering unlimited vacation time, they’re not doing it as an act of charity. They’re doing it as a test. Every unlimited vacation day you take is a mark against you. Get too unlimited, and you know what will be extremely limited – your job.

But maybe I’m being paranoid. Maybe today’s new breed of enlightened management, stumbling out of Stanford Business School, truly believe, as Torres writes, that “Happy employees = a happy and profitable company.” Let’s take a little vacation time ourselves and look more closely at the three companies profiled in her essay.

One of which is Netflix. “We don’t track hours worked per day or per week,” Netflix tells potential employees,” so why are we tracking days of vacation per year?” Instead, Netflix management decided to “focus on what people get done, not how many days worked.”

Philosophically, I agree with this approach. The genius who decided to make available unlimited viewings of “Bachelor Party in the Bungalow of the Damned” and “Sorority Girls Revenge” definitely deserves a well-earned vacation. And a big fat raise! [Of course, the absence of "Honey Boo-Boo” episodes from the popular streaming site suggests to me that someone should be hauled back from Bali and called on the carpet. If Netflix expects $8.99 from you every month, you need your Boo-Boo.]

According to Netflix, their employees do not abuse the liberal vacation policy. The company “expects high performance and values context,” whatever the heck that is. Frankly, I was so taken by these workplace perks that I almost clicked on Monster’s link to “Apply for Netflix Jobs.” Then I read that “there is also no clothing policy at Netflix, but no one comes to work naked.”

That settled it for me. You can give me all the free vacation days you want. If no one is going to show up naked, I’d rather work at McDonalds.

Or, maybe, Eventbrite. This high-tech ticketing wunderkind offers a “Take the Time You Need Vacation Policy.” They also provide catered meals, a monthly stipend to cover optimal health and wellness, and – get this – a “Zen room.”

Given all these perks, working at Eventbrite seems like a win-win situation. Hired on day one, you could start your vacation on day two. You could probably get six months of pay sent to your post office box in Maui before the enlightened leaders at Eventbrite knew you had used your health and wellness stipend to buy a gallon of sun screen and a Speedo. And if anyone wondered why the new hire was never at their treadmill desk, just leave a note on your Feng Shui fountain – “In the Zen room. Do not disturb until I have reached Nirvana, or it’s lunch time.”

Evernote is another limit-free vacation provider. “Our employees are better after they have traveled,” explains CEO Phil Libin. He must believe it, too, since the company provides $1,000 in spending money for employees who take a week off. If my math is right, that means you could earn $52K a year as an Evernote employee, and never show up once. You would also get free housecleaning twice a month and reimbursement for the heavy lifting you do at the gym.

Personally, I’d be more interested in a company that reimburses me for all the heavy lifting I do at the bar at the Kit Kat Klub. Yes, I’ll take unlimited drinks over unlimited vacations. Any kind of travel these days is a nightmare, and after a hard day of not working, it’s nice to have a desk to sleep under.

Bob Goldman was an advertising executive at a Fortune 500 company, but he finally wised up and opened Bob Goldman Financial Planning in Sausalito, California. He offers a virtual shoulder to cry on at bob@bgplanning.com.

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