How Much Vacation Time is Realistic?

March 8, 2012

Q: At the BLC one of the presenters suggested providing employees up to 5 weeks of vacation. Is that realistic for a systems contractor?

A: In most cases I don’t believe it is. Here’s my argument on that.

First I love the presenters position on not carrying over PTO or vacation time. I truly believe it should be used and the concept of the need to charge the batteries is right on. I also agree that the time between major religious holidays is a great time to take off as in many companies not much gets done anyway. Inventory, service calls, yearend close-outs, etc. will impact that of course.

In Europe they take a month off in the summer and somehow that works. Here in North America and especially with our industry workloads are so deadline driven that I find it not only expensive but dangerous to commit to this philosophy. I’m not sure how a company could meet client demands and still make the promise of that much time away from their jobs. I would favor a max of 4 weeks (20 days of PTO) with the provision that project scheduling has to be allowed to override the dates and stagger accordingly depending on workload. I would not allow carry over. I would encourage all but a skeleton crew use these days over the long and often non-productive holiday periods. I’m also not sure if extended PTO is cost effect in the competitive world of systems contracting. I have been professing a lean and mean mindset and this goes against that rationale. But here again, I’m old fashioned in that belief. –CW

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