• At management services firm Humanyze, employees follow a synchronized vacation schedule.
• Managers assign employees their time off during the summer to maximize productivity.
• Even though employees do not have to take off during their assigned times, most still do.
In the summer of 2016, Ben Waber began noticing something interesting.
As the president and CEO of management services firm Humanyze, he saw communications with French clients slow to a trickle as the summer went on. In France, companies strive to curb a lag in summer productivity by giving everyone the entire month of August off.
“It’s always been annoying from my perspective because you’re trying to get a deal done or your trying to schedule something and then it gets pushed out by two months,” he told Business Insider.
Despite his initial frustration, Waber realized that every week between June and August, many of his own Humanzye employees would be out of the office. This led to decreased productivity within his own company as well.
“If you need to get four people together for a meeting, for example, it could take a month to schedule,” Waber wrote in a blog post for Quartz at Work.
Waber began to think that it might be time for a change. He decided to create a synchronized vacation policy of his own, where managers assign employees their time off during the summer to maximize productivity. He hoped to decrease employee absence and enhance workplace productivity during the summer months.
At first, “people were actually a little concerned about it,” Waber said. No one knew what to expect from the brand new approach.
Despite the hesitation, Waber went through with his new vacation model.
In January 2017, Humanyze employees voted to determine the specific weeks in the summer that they would like to take off.
“After tallying the votes, we picked the two most popular weeks and assigned half the company one week and half the other week, with priority given to people who had a preference,” Waber wrote in his Quartz post.
As an extra incentive, “if you took off the vacation week you were assigned, it only counted as three vacation days,” he said.
Waber said that the idea was founded upon “the hypothesis that many people are flexible about when they take a summer vacation.”
Although employees were strongly encouraged to take off on their assigned weeks, the policy was by no means mandatory. Employees still had the freedom to take vacation whenever they chose, but everyone took off during their assigned weeks.
“Everybody is on vacation at the same time,” Waber told Business Insider. “Using a different model can simplify things.”
According to Waber, the policy led to a drastic decrease in employee absence throughout the season. Only 46% of other weeks in the summer had partial employee coverage. That’s compared to 100% the previous year.
“Even if you’re a company looking from a cold, hard economic standpoint, people are going to be more productive,” Waber said when discussing his approach.
He said his conclusion was corroborated by the massive amounts of data the company collects regarding employee attendance. “We are a people analytics company,” Waber said. “We have more data about ourselves internally than any other company has ever had, because of what we do.”
According to Market Watch, a typical US employee with paid vacation only takes about half of their days.
Humanyze’s approach might be a valid solution for employees to take more time off while increasing their overall productivity for their respective companies.
“Some say that in the next five years everyone’s gonna copy our model,” Waber said. “But I will say as more companies use data about how their people work to manage their business, you are gonna see more companies doing stuff like this.”