Open Vacation Policy? Does that mean Unlimited Vacation?

The company I work for, Automattic, has an open vacation policy.

What does an “open vacation policy” even mean?

Before I started at Automattic, I had no idea what to expect. I had heard about how some open vacation policies end up with employees taking very little vacation time out of peer pressure. My friends thought it meant unlimited vacations.

When Automattic says they have an open vacation policy, they genuinely do mean that there is no set number of days per a year that you can take a vacation on.

Open Vacation Policy in Remote Work AutomatticIt’s easy to think, especially when you see photos like this that we’re all constantly on vacation. Thing is, majority of the time we’re all working hard. While I do go on vacations or travel, that isn’t my whole life rather it’s just a small portion of my life that I take an extraordinary amount of photos of 🤣.

For me an open vacation policy doesn’t mean that I never work, get to take months off with no communication, or even that I get every single day I want off.

As a team we try hard to balance working when our users need us with taking the time off you need to stay healthy and spend time with friends and family.

We do this by reminding each other to disconnect, we share details of our vacation with teammates, and we encourage each other to take time off. Then we balance this with communicating when we’d like to plan time off and being flexible wherever possible.

Behind the Scenes planning for my vacation

For example, a month ago I took several weeks off to go to Italy. Let me give you a behind the scenes look on how I approached that!

I started thinking about the trip I wanted to take 4+ months in advance. I checked in with my lead to let them know what I had in mind, but also to see when everyone else was taking vacations. I used that information to do my best to let that start guiding me in picking dates. I tried to focus on taking time off when not a lot of my coworkers would be on vacation since it wouldn’t be a great experience for our users to come to with us chat and no one be available because we’re all off on vacation at the same time! 😂

For me, this did involve shifting the timeframe I had in mind a by a week or so, but since I was planning so far in advance- my travel partner was totally okay with it.

When I found a great airfare deal, I checked in again with my lead with the final dates I had in mind. Once they gave me the thumbs up, I finalized my vacation and booked my flight.

There are times you need time off and the dates aren’t flexible. In those cases, it’s important to communicate this really early in advance so the rest of the team can do their best to plan around you if they’re able to be flexible.

Yes, rarely sometimes I’ve had things come up last minute and I wasn’t able to be flexible about the time I needed off. Like when I get sick, or I needed to help a family member that was sick. I did my best to communicate it as soon as possible and try to make sure those instances were rare.

What about Holidays?

Since we’re a global company with employees allll around the world, the Holidays that we celebrate vary widely.

When it comes to Holidays that a great amount of employees celebrate (for example Christmas), we do our best to distribute time off evenly among everyone. With that, I don’t expect to take 3 weeks off in December.

I actually don’t celebrate many Holidays that others in my area do. So I do my best to take minimal time off during those Holidays, to help support my teammates in taking time off to spend with their families.

As you can see, we really do our best to approach these issues as a team. We focus on communicating early and being as flexible as possible.

My personal vacation stats!

I thought you’d enjoy some stats on how much time I’ve taken off.

I have no idea how “normal” these numbers are. I personally view them as on the higher end of the spectrum. Also, they aren’t super accurate either since most of these numbers include weekends in the middle of my vacation, which technically weren’t vacation days and also time frames where I was working a company event- where I wasn’t doing my regular day-to-day job.

2015: 39 days off
2016: 50 days off
2017: 56 days off
2018: 34 days off (including what I have planned for the rest of the year)

Interested in working at Automattic? Apply already! 😉