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As much holiday as you want

As much holiday as you want

By treating employees as responsible and trustworthy adults, Netflix is making all the right moves. If only most employers would do the same, thinks Sam Potter.

August 15, 2010 1:44 by

Netflix is the company I want to work for. The Silicon Valley-based video streaming and DVD distributor is not only a huge success story – 15 million subscribers, a market cap of $7 billion – it’s also smart. Very smart.

Netflix allows salaried employees to take as much time off as they’d like, whenever they want to take it. Nobody – not employees themselves, not managers – tracks vacation days. The Daily Telegraph reports that in other words, Netflix’s holiday policy is to have no policy at all.

The company has apparently quietly pioneered the non-policy in recent years. So how on earth does this idea work in practice?

It’s brilliantly simple. In its “Reference Guide on our Freedom & Responsibility Culture” Netflix says, “We should focus on what people get done, not how many hours or days worked. Just as we don’t have a nine to five day policy, we don’t need a vacation policy.”

The 600 or so employees at Netflix can vacation anytime they desire for as long as they want – provided that their managers know where they are and that their work is covered.

The principle is based on the wider Netflix approach to work. Most employees respond to email at weekends when necessary, solve problems at home in the evening, and as a result every so often take an afternoon off for personal chore. The thinking was, since Netflix wasn’t checking how many hours a day people were logging, why should it need to track how many holidays people were taking?

“Rules and policies and regulations and stipulations are innovation killers. People do their best work when they’re unencumbered,” says Steve Swasey, Netflix’s vice-president for corporate communication. “If you’re spending a lot of time accounting for the time you’re spending, that’s time you’re not innovating.”

Netflix goes further when it comes to its expenses policy. The guidance is, act in Netflix’s best interest. And that’s it. As the paper says, it’s delightfully adult. The simple flipside is that employees who don’t produce are shown the door. “Adequate performance,” the company says, “gets a generous severance package.”

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