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Unlimited holidays.

Sat, Jun 01, 19

Challenge a broken system by taking the limits off your holidays.

by Michael
Unlimited holidays.

It seems counter-intuitive that my first post about work at houseof is titled "unlimited holidays". However the way we treat holiday says an awful lot about our priorities... and at houseof, our top priority is always people.

The benefits of holidays are not news, they have always been a constitutional part of the work life balance which promotes happy, healthy, productive people. Yet the majority are not taking advantage of this opportunity, building businesses and policies that actively discourage holiday. It is a broken system that needs challenging.

woodland scene from my holiday

To do exactly that, at houseof we operate an 'unlimited holiday' policy, which simply means we don't put an arbitrary number on the amount of holiday we think people need or deserve. Instead we make provisions for our people to work or take holiday as they see fit.

It is a philosophy (not a strategy) based on mutual trust. As a rule we tend to trust our people (why else would we hire them?) and they trust us to measure them only by the work they produce. It is exactly the same reason we don't operate traditional "working hours".

And it turns out autonomy is not the opposite of accountability, it is in fact the pathway to it. Smart businesses are looking for more innovation, not more rules and policies and regulations and stipulations.

Accordingly, we even try to encourage our people to take time out when away with houseof ... like extending a work trip to China, or going for an early morning surf during a visit to our warehouse in Devon (but those are stories for future posts).

It is a classic case of infinite vs finite thinking.

My daughter (Maddie) on the back of my bike

If your first thought is to people abusing the system, consider this...

When we design systems that assume bad faith from the participants, and whose main purpose is to defend against that nasty behaviour, we often foster the very behaviour we're trying to deter.

People will push and push the limits of the formal rules, search for every available loophole, and look for ways to game the system when the defenders aren't watching. By contrast, a structure of rules that assumes good faith can actually encourage that behaviour.

To paraphrase Netflix (pioneers of the anti-policy philosophy)... we don't have a clothing policy either, but (so far at least) nobody has shown up to work naked.

my wife (Bev) and daughter (Maddie) on a woodland walk

So (after picking a point in the calendar that will have the smallest impact on our workload), I've taken 5 days off... 5 days to recharge my batteries, 5 days to reset my mind, 5 days to get ready for the next challenge.

I'm escaping the hustle and bustle of the city, teaching my daughter to swim, playing in play parks, painting (Marvel inspired) pottery, cycling up hills, sleeping in log cabins, sitting in front of log fires and walking in the woods. It is a much needed break.

Our lives are defined by so much more than our work but our work is absolutely defined by our lives.

My holiday was everything it was cracked up to be, I'm returning to the office happier and healthier and inherently more productive... everything I want our people to be.

Pictures of my wife Bev and daughter Maddie on our woodland holiday... I tend to be one of those "behind the camera" dads.
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