There can often be difficulties around off-days at work: there is not enough of them, we are obligated to take them when we don’t want to, we cannot take more when we would need it, or even, there are too many of them... Besides, our society pushes us to work until exhaustion and the end of long holidays usually means to start following a routine again. Not surprisingly, questions are raised: how much holiday do we actually need? How often? Could we decide for ourselves, and what would we do if we had unlimited vacation?

On the western part of the world, workaholic citizens in the US are occasionally challenged with obligatory time they have to spend away from their jobs. Companies are forced to send their employees away from time to time if they want to prevent them from burning out. Businesses such as Netflix and Amazon began experimenting with unlimited holidays and 4-day workweeks.


Netflix started their policy of unlimited vacation days in 2004. Every employee can decide how much time they need off work, how much time they need to finish a job and when they want to go on holiday. No one tracks their time; instead, they have to face high expectations when it comes to their assignments since the company uses a very effective leadership style: it focuses only on results. The limited off-days had to go because employees raised the question: why do they track the time they spend inside the office when the time they spend at home – still answering e-mails and working on papers – is not checked at all. Think about it: with creative work, such as marketing, management, jobs based on projects with deadlines, with all the technological advantages, can we really talk about after hours anymore? Performance should be rewarded based on the outcome and not on how much time one spends on a job.


By being able to decide about their time on their own, employees are shown that the management values and trusts them. This is far more motivating than making extra work at home for the same payment. Plus, it could result in a more relaxed and motivating work environment that also provides a healthier work-life balance. This produces better results, and we all know Netflix didn’t go bankrupt after the change but kept growing stronger. The reason not all American companies adopted this policy is mainly due to their workaholic mindset; also US firms are not even legally required to give out vacation days to their employees.


Amazon tried another way to fight overworking. This summer they switched to a 30-hour workweek for a selected group of part-time employees. The decision was based on the idea of how long a person can focus on a task well enough to produce great results. According to research conducted by psychologist K. Anders Ericsson, this duration is four or five hours. Past this, the performance level lowers, the output is of worse quality, moreover, those who have to get something done but no longer can concentrate tend to develop bad habits, which later on could jeopardize the time they are actually productive.


Amazon is trying to get the best out of their workers and to reach higher worker morale by giving them 3-day weekends, thus helping them create a healthy balance between work and their private lives. In addition, the firm appears more flexible and attract a wider range of employees, since young mothers and people with other obligations can maintain a work schedule that doesn’t take time away from certain things that are more important for them, also, they are not in need of taking leaves of absence. Amazon wins more energetic and motivated workers and can even save public resources in its offices that would go on heating and electricity.


Of course, we cannot say for sure that these methods work in all cases. Line-workers in factories just couldn’t abandon their posts without causing a loss in production, and imagine if all of a sudden doctors and nurses started going on one-year vacations from the ER... Besides, things are handled a little differently in the European Union. Unlike in the States, the EU policy says that the minimum of twenty days vacation time cannot be taken away from employees and all of it has to be used within a year. Off-days not taken could be followed by a serious fine.


Do you think the above mentioned two methods could be useful in Europe? Which one makes more sense? One thing is certain: sometimes we think we have to be working all the time to make it and we forget how to relax and enjoy our lives. In reality, if we learn to work a bit, then relax a bit, we can continue on the road to our goals with a freer, well-rested and motivated mind.