June 21, 2022
What Are the Best Alternatives to Unlimited PTO?
It’s one of the biggest employee wellness trends today – unlimited PTO. Yet some companies, though th...
Unlimited PTO is an employee benefit that’s growing in popularity. But do big companies actually offer their employees unlimited vacation time?
It’s definitely something that’s more common to see from smaller companies, such as remote tech startups with single or double-digit employees. But there’s a sizable list of large businesses, some of which are household names, that offer this as part of their benefit package.
We’ve put together a list of companies known to offer unlimited PTO to their staff, to show you that it is something that works. However, we’ve also included several businesses who used to have an unlimited vacation policy, but moved away from it, to show you the other side of the coin.
Read on for more.
Here are 12 examples of companies with unlimited PTO, in various sizes and industries.
Streaming giant Netflix is one of the most well-known examples of a company with an unlimited vacation policy. Netflix was perhaps a decade ahead of the curve with unlimited PTO, implementing it way back in 2003.
CEO Reed Hastings has spoken at length about their unlimited vacation policy. Here are a couple of his quotes on the topic:
“I have never paid attention to how many hours people are working. So, why should I care if an employee works 50 weeks a year or 48 weeks a year?”
“Time off provides mental bandwidth that allows you to think creatively and see your work in a different light. If you are working all the time, you don’t have the perspective to see your problem with fresh eyes.”
“The freedom signals to employees that we trust them to do the right thing, which in turn encourages them to behave responsibly. We’d found a way to give our high performers a little more control over their lives, and that control made everybody feel a little freer.”
Netflix’s employee handbook is available to read online, if you want to take a deeper look into their workplace philosophy.
Twitter offers the majority of their employees unlimited PTO. Along with 10 company-wide holidays, they don’t track the number of vacation days employees take, allowing a great amount of freedom and flexibility.
Employee accounts state that the company is very accommodating when someone wants to take time off, and it’s generally flexible to take time off whenever you want – although it may need manager approval.
Companies with unlimited PTO don’t get much bigger than Sony. The electronics branch of the company offers a flexible system with no rigid controls or limits, and no traditional accruals. This helps their employees maintain a healthy work/life balance, and take regular breaks to kick back at home and play PlayStation (or Xbox – but don’t tell your boss).
In their own words, “ our employees effectively balance work demands with time-off already”. It is, however, only in exempt roles. Not all employees are eligible for unlimited PTO, but their PTO benefits are generous across the board, regardless.
Note-taking app Evernote has a very generous, progressive and extensive list of employee benefits, which includes a flexible time off policy.
This is a big part of the reason Evernote has such great reviews from current and former employees (per Glassdoor).
It doesn’t stop with flexible PTO, however. Evernote also offers an “annual vacation stipend”, giving employees $1,000 to spend towards a break of 5 days or longer, to encourage more employees to take their PTO.
Tech company Roku is another that provides unlimited PTO to employees. It’s part of their culture that pushes staff to be independent, productive at work, yet maintaining a good work/home balance.
Roku CEO Anthony Wood worked in Netflix previously, so it’s no surprise that their company culture mirrors that of Netflix’s. Like Netflix, Roku also has a company culture document available to read online.
It’s in that document you can read about their vacation policy:
“An example of trust is the Roku vacation policy. For salaried employees, we don’t track vacation or have official holidays. Employees can take as much vacation as they think is appropriate, so long as they get their job done and do not block others’ work or deadlines (We simply check and give notice before taking vacation).”
Massive software company Oracle leads from the front with their employee benefits package.
They offer flexible vacation to salaried employees (those who aren’t eligible for overtime), which is, in effect, an unlimited PTO policy. Vacations need to be approved, but other than that, employees are offered greater flexibility than a traditional leave policy.
Those employees who aren’t eligible for flexible vacation are still given paid PTO – 13 days per year for the first three years working at the company, and 18 days per year after that.
In 2015, LinkedIn moved to a system they called “discretionary time off”, or DTO. This gives employees what is effectively unlimited time off.
Like most unlimited vacation policies, it’s not literally unlimited. Employees can’t just take time off when they like, or for as long as they like. It still has to be within reason, and approved by management. But it does offer employees the freedom to take time off without rigid limits.
The company also gave almost all employees a full week off in April 2021, a move they said was done to address burnout and improve mental health throughout the organization.
At Flamingo, we’ve always had unlimited PTO. As a small, remote software startup, we never felt it made sense for us to track PTO with set limits on how much time off someone can take.
Everyone can see how their work contributes to the team, so there’s a clear incentive to making sure you’re carrying your weight and being productive. As long as that happens, we’re fine with someone taking leave almost any time they like.
Though we’ve never kept limits on PTO, we did realize that we needed a way to keep tabs on people going on leave, to keep everyone in the team in the loop. That’s why, when we were focused on building WordPress plugins, we decided to make Flamingo.
If you’re a small business like us, Flamingo is perfect for you, whether you have an unlimited PTO policy or not. You’ll find, like we did, it’s much easier to manage leave and keep everyone fresh and productive.
Free trial. No credit card required.
File hosting & cloud storage heavyweight Dropbox is another who provides generous employee benefits, including unlimited vacation.
Their Glassdoor reviews on vacation & PTO are mostly extremely positive from Dropbox employees, reaffirming that the company has an unlimited PTO policy which most employees love.
Only a few employees mention that it is not literally “unlimited” – but so is the case for any such policy.
Internet marketing company HubSpot is at the fore when it comes to employee wellness. Their list of benefits includes global healthcare (including mental health care), parental benefits, tuition reimbursement and nutrition benefits. All alongside their unlimited vacation policy.
HubSpot also offers a company-wide global week of rest in July, and a paid four-week sabbatical (with a $5,000 bonus to go towards it) after working with the company for five years.
Project management tool Asana’s Glassdoor reviews are almost perfect for vacation & PTO. Here are a few highlights:
“Vacation is unlimited/untracked. The only “limit” is common sense (i.e. you should be here enough that we can tell you work here, and you should be getting your work done).”
“We have flexible PTO, meaning if your time off is approved, you don’t need to worry about how much, nor take unpaid leave.”
“Flexible PTO, and not the kind where you feel pressured to not take it.”
Reviews on other sites rank their unlimited vacation policy as the top non-healthcare benefit offered to employees.
Unlimited PTO isn’t just for young, new-aged companies. Kronos, a workplace management software & services company, has been in operation since the 1970s. And in 2016, they changed to an unlimited PTO policy.
CEO Aron Ain penned an article in HBR talking about their switch to unlimited PTO. In it, he explains why they did it, the challenges they faced, and the results. One such result was that employees took more leave (without getting to the point of abuse), with 16.6 average vacation days taken under unlimited PTO, compared to 14.0 per year before that.
It wouldn’t be fair to mention only companies that have had success with unlimited PTO.
There are other high-profile companies who have gone on record as trying out an unlimited vacation policy, but moving to a different system after it didn’t work out for them.
Here are a few who made their stories public:
Buffer, who are open and transparent about almost everything they do behind the scenes, used to have unlimited vacation.
The problem they found was that people weren’t taking enough time off. Employees were unsure how much time off was really acceptable, and felt guilty about asking for time off.
So they switched to a minimum vacation policy instead. Though not strictly enforced, they encouraged employees to take a minimum of 3 weeks (15 days) paid vacation each year.
Technically they still don’t have a maximum number on PTO, so it could still be considered an unlimited vacation policy. But they realized that making their policy completely open and flexible didn’t work out.
Kickstarter also found that there was too much uncertainty among their employees with an unlimited vacation policy.
They changed their policy to a cap of 25 days per year, which is still generous by most companies’ standards, and removes ambiguity over how much time off is ok to take.
A spokesperson from the company said in 2015, “by setting specific parameters around the number of days, there was no question about how much time was appropriate to take from work to engage in personal, creative, and family activities.”
CharlieHR CEO Ben Gately published an extensive breakdown of their company’s experience with unlimited holiday (that’s vacation, in English english).
They offered unlimited paid time off to all staff, right from when the company was founded. But after a while they found that there was too much anxiety with employees over how to navigate the policy.
Gately accepts that unlimited PTO works for some companies, but for them, it doesn’t. They ended up switching to a clearer, yet still generous holiday policy.
So, what can we learn from the companies mentioned in this post?
The biggest takeaway is that unlimited PTO can work – but it’s not for everyone.
The most common problem isn’t, as you might expect, staff taking huge amounts of time off and leaving deadlines, projects and clients hanging.
Instead, the issue is making sure employees actually take enough leave, and avoiding burnout. When there’s no solid figure put on how much leave you’re expected to take, a lot of people feel pressure, even just within themselves, to work more and vacation less.
If you’re going to do unlimited PTO in your company, figure out how you can set expectations with your employees. You want to make sure they’re still taking leave, and that they don’t feel guilty about taking time off.
Make this clear in your leave policy, and follow up with staff who work too long without taking a break. Flamingo’s leave tracker is perfect for this. You can see trends in just a couple of clicks, making it easy to nip issues in the bud.
Flamingo also makes it stress-free for employees to put in a time off request, by making it totally asynchronous.
Our tool is perfect for modern teams with unlimited PTO. And for those who have a traditional leave policy, it works just fine too.