5 Steps to Implementing an Open Vacation Policy


In recent weeks, I’ve been doing some research on open vacation policies and have gotten some great ideas on how to implement one.

This is not a debate on whether an open vacation policy is better for your company or your employees than having a certain number of days allocated as vacation, personal, or sick days. That topic has certainly been exhausted. See here, here, and here. Instead, this is a post devoted to tips for implementation.

5 Steps to Implementing an Open Time Off Policy

Actually making the shift from accrued vacation time to an open policy may seem daunting. What do you need to do from a legal perspective? How do you communicate the new policy to your company? And how to you make it clear that, while you don’t want the policy to be abused, you actually do in fact want your employees to take time off and unplug?

If you’re interested in rolling out an open vacation policy, below are some ideas:

1) Update Your Employee Handbook

This is the first place to outline what your policy means at your company, and it is where your employees will go if they have questions about it. Ensure that your handbook describes what is expected of employees in terms of maintaining a high degree of professionalism and dedication to individual and institutional success, and why the policy is in place.

Also, make sure to review your employee handbook with a lawyer who specializes in Human Resources law before finalizing and sharing with your employees.

2) Send an Email Announcing Your New Policy

Outline the major points that are in your updated employee handbook, and include it along with your email. Use this email to set the tone for why the change has taken place and what is expected of employees, but also encourage them to continue to take time off in order to rest, relax, and to attend to personal matters that may arise.

3) Discuss the Policy in a Company-Wide Meeting

During your next company town hall or even just a lunch meeting, ask your CEO to address the new policy so employees can hear about it and the intentions behind it, and have the opportunity to ask any questions they have in real time. If you can’t do this live, include a Q&A in your company communications.

4) Address the Approval Process

Although time off will be open, notice and managerial approval is still required. Your new policy is flexible, but it is still expected that employees will not abuse such a policy and take excessive time off such that his or her job performance is negatively impacted.

5) If Someone is Taking Too Much Time Off, Address It

The idea behind an open vacation policy is that performance and meeting/exceeding goals are the measure of success, not time spent in the office. If a manager feels that an employee’s performance is faltering, and if that employee continues to request a lot of time out of the office, the manager should address this concern with the employee immediately. Although the policy is open, it does not mean that all vacation requests will or should be approved.

Has your company thought about, or already implemented an open vacation policy? I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on implementing one successfully below.


Diana Martz
Diana Martz
VP, Human Capital

Diana Martz is Vice President, Human Capital atTA Associates. She was previously the Director of Talent at OpenView.
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