As the Head of People Operations, I’m constantly analyzing how people feel at work and thinking about what I can do to help make their work experience better. Of course, there’s the satisfaction that comes from the actual job people do and those little wins that happen every day. Then there’s the work environment and financial compensation.
However, when it comes to making a difference to people’s wellbeing, employee benefits are what truly matters.
We are all aware of those crazy benefits that Silicon Valley companies offer. The trend of installing foosball tables at the office and organizing pizza meetings has spread like wildfire and today we see it here in Serbia as well.
See it? Heck, we have those benefits! But, what we realized is that making people fat by offering free sweets and giving them a free gym membership to lose that weight is not what’s going to make them happy and loyal.
Free snacks, candies, gym membership, casual dress code, free transportation, and other perks certainly make work more pleasant, but are they making a difference?
Understanding what makes people happy at work
In HR circles, benefits are one of the things which gets talked about a lot, and it’s understandable. After all, who doesn’t want to know what makes their team happy? A happy team means low fluctuation and high retention. It’s certainly a win for you when your people don’t hate Mondays.
In the last couple of years, every piece of research about employee satisfaction conducted in Serbia has shown that the benefits which employees appreciate the most are the ones related to work-life balance. Take the study StartIT did, in which 77% of respondents stated they really appreciate having flexible working hours. Such an overwhelmingly high percentage of support for this initiative shows how important it is, and tells employers in no uncertain terms that something as simple as moving around working hours can massively improve worker satisfaction.
Most of these studies focus on the Serbian IT sector, which is the industry where the trends of Western work culture are most easily applied. In addition, it is the industry-oriented towards talent hunting, so keeping employees happy and loyal is the ultimate HR priority.
That said, the research conclusions are pretty much the same all over the globe. The majority of studies state that employees value additional vacation days, the possibility to work from home, and overall flexibility. Interestingly, the further up the seniority ranks you go, the more it is apparent that it was flexibility that is valued more; in many cases, even more than the financial compensation.
So that’s the research that’s happening around us. What about here, at Content Insights, though? When I talked to our CEO about the benefits and the type of company culture we’re building there’s one key sentence that stuck in my head.
He said – “I’m building a company that I want to work in”.
This leads us to the holy grail of the Content Insights benefits program – unlimited vacation days.
What do you mean – UNLIMITED vacation days?
When people hear we offer unlimited vacation days, they often react by squinting their eyes and asking what the catch is. Some even think it’s some kind of scam and that they’ll be working overtime without being properly compensated.
Sadly, this is a pretty good indicator of the way people feel in modern work culture. Its “rules” and dynamics are so deeply rooted, people find it hard to imagine things can change for the better. Capitalism teaches us we have to hustle and be continuously overworked in order to truly earn our paychecks and drive results.
This is a fallacy and our company culture has proven that.
Let’s take a closer look.
You see, an unlimited vacation policy is a leave policy which grants each employee with a right to use an unlimited number of vacation days within the year.
In Serbia, the legal minimum is 20 days, and a person can get a couple of days more, depending on their previous work experience and the specificity of the employer policy.
Here at Content Insights, we believe that people should manage their own time and workload. That’s why we offer this benefit to all employees, regardless of when they joined the company.
Sounds like anarchy, right?
Well, it probably would be if the two key things were missing:
- A clearly defined policy which prioritizes delivery
- The trust which the company has in its employees, and vice versa
The sacred trust we built our policy upon
In order for the policy to be sustainable, logical, and truly serves its purpose, all team members have one single obligation: the delivery.
The company expects from all its team members to deliver agreed results in the agreed time. In return, anyone can take the day off when they need it or choose to work from home.
You must be thinking that we must have some crazy working hours, huh? Well, it’s quite the opposite. Working hours are also flexible, tailored by team members, and the workload is completely normal.
Besides the delivery, we have come up with some simple rules to help us keep track of who’s out and when
- To be able to use some time off, a person needs to make a request through our HRIS tool
- Team leads are in charge of the approval of time off requests
- Vacation requests which are longer than five days need to be announced one month upfront
- Team leads need to keep track of who’s out and when to avoid overlap, and ensure everything runs smoothly
- Transparency – everyone in the team can see who’s out in company calendar or through HRIS
Explaining this policy, how it works, and what it means for our employees is a part of the new team members’ onboarding process. People’s facial expression and their genuine confusion when I explain to them how it works, is something that’s really entertaining to me as an HR professional.
The truth is, the policy is simple to understand and people get used to it really fast. The thing they love the most is the fact that there is no need to count the number of used days.
Give people the freedom they need and they will work better
Here’s an interesting fact: giving people unlimited vacation days won’t result in empty offices or work not being done in time.
Our statistics say that, combined with the national holidays, the number of used days off are just a bit higher than the legal minimum.
The freedom to organize your work the way you want is priceless. Some people enjoy spending more time at the office, they like to take frequent breaks or socialize. Others might sit at their desks, put the headphones on, and zone out, finishing their tasks in one go.
Knowing that you have control of your vacation plans and that you can travel whenever you want puts the stress away and lets you enjoy your personal time guilt-free. As long as the end results are satisfying, we at Content Insights have no problem with your working style. In fact, it’s of utmost importance to us that you have the freedom to do so.
Unlimited vacation days policy, flexible working hours, and remote work are the pillars of the work-life balance culture that we created. We value what our employees value the most and that is time; precious time with family, friends, visiting places and taking a day off when you’re not feeling well, mentally or physically. Truly being treated like a human being – that’s what makes people genuinely happy with both their job and their lifestyle.
These benefits, mutual trust, and compassion that we nurture within our company helped us build a team of people who are indeed happy to come to work, who are highly engaged and loyal. Transforming our attitude towards work is an important piece of the puzzle, and we are very proud of what we’ve done so far.