Earlier this year, we announced that Clearbox was scrapping its existing annual leave policy in favour of unlimited holidays. You can read about why we did that here.
We’re now about halfway through the experiment. Here’s what we’ve learned so far.
Stat fans - this also contains some numbers.
It took some time to get used to
There was some hesitation across the team when we brought this new policy into place. Is it really unlimited? How many days can I actually take? Should I take regular short breaks or a few long breaks?
The unlimited leave policy was, in the beginning, a bit like a plate of biscuits in a meeting. You know the one – the plate stacked with biscuits that come from a fancy tin.
The biscuits look good, but nobody is taking one. Everyone is waiting for someone to reach across the table. Nobody wants to go first.
After a few weeks, some people started to take the proverbial double chocolate cookie and once that happened, the leave requests started to come in thick and fast.
We’re now at the stage where (we think and hope) our team are happy to book leave as and when it suits them. As long as their client work is of the usual outstanding quality, of course.
It can be tricky to manage
Once we started to use our new, unlimited holidays, Clearbox’s next challenge was managing it. We don’t really have any rules around our leave policy, other than no more than two people from the same client team can be off at the same time.
In theory, this works fine. In reality, it doesn’t always work. We’ve had a few instances where more than two people need time off at the same time for important family stuff, so it can, at times, require a bit of shuffling among the team who aren’t on leave to make it happen.
What this has done is build a better culture of ownership among the team when booking leave. We’ve seen people cancel leave to help their teammates out, swap days and change plans. They’re accountable to each other when it comes to booking time off, and that part of the process is starting to work really well.
Is it encouraging more annual leave than usual?
Exactly half of our team have taken more than their traditional holiday allocation for the year to date. We expect to see a further over-use of holidays, when compared to the traditional model, as flights start resuming to places a bit further afield than the pub at the end of the street.
Impact on sick leave
The biggest impact of our new holiday policy has been on sick leave. In 2021 to date, our team has taken 71% less sick days than in the previous year. We can’t say for sure that unlimited holidays are the only reason for this, but it would appear to have a huge impact when your staff know that they won’t run out of holidays at any stage during the year.
Since the introduction of our unlimited leave policy, our timekeeping has got much better as a team. Lateness has decreased by 67% since 2020, which has a knock-on effect on deadlines being hit, meetings running smoothly and things getting done in good time.
The ultimate test – has all of this made people any happier? They’re going on more holidays, taking more time off than usual, taking far fewer sick days and being more punctual. But are they happier?
We track a lot of things here at Clearbox, and one of those things is the happiness and satisfaction of our team. We run an anonymous quarterly wellness index with a brilliant man called David Josephs and his detailed study examines thoughts, feelings and opinions on everything from job satisfaction to switching off from PR outside working hours.
After we introduced unlimited holidays, our overall staff happiness score increased by three points from 71 to 74 out of 100. In the last quarter, it rose again to 81. A ten-point climb in seven months is a good achievement and one we’re happy with, but we’re still aiming for further improvement.
During the summer months, we’re hopeful that the unlimited leave policy, as well as a host of other benefits we’ve introduced around mental wellbeing, will help drive our happiness score closer to 90, which is our goal before the end of this year.
At the halfway stage of this trial, we’d say that initial signs are good. Happier, healthier, more punctual and well rested staff is the goal for any organisation, and this new policy has helped us move in the right direction to achieving this.
However, it’s not perfect and we will continue to monitor the impact that our policy has on the quality of our work and our client service.
Would we recommend this policy to other organisations?
We have nine staff, so it’s much easier for us to make this work than it would be in a large corporation. We also have a strong level of trust among our team and they know that they get perks like this because we believe their main priority will always be to our clients and delivering excellent service.
If you run a small business, you can invest in some software to help track and manage leave requests and you have a team you can trust, then we’d recommend giving it a go, even on a trial basis. Also - be aware of the legal minimum requirements in UK HR law around annual leave.
It won’t work for everyone, but for now, it’s working for us.
If you have any questions on how we manage requests, software we use or anything else you’d like to chat about, then get in touch – firstname.lastname@example.org / 02895 622600.