Summer is drawing to a close, and with it, vacation season. With these thoughts in mind, I was intrigued by Daniel Pink’s musings in The Telegraph about Netflix’s unusual policy. Pink writes:
“At Netflix, the vacation policy is audaciously simple and simply audacious. Salaried employees can take as much time off as they'd like, whenever they want to take it. Nobody – not employees themselves, not managers – tracks vacation days.”
Sure, Netflix used to have a standard vacation policy, but in about 2004, employees realized that the policy didn’t jibe with how they were actually working. Since no one tracked the time they spent checking work e-mails at home or working from home, why should their vacation be logged?
Netflix’s no-policy vacation policy does have some rules, of course. Managers have to know where staff are and how to contact them, and the staff have to make sure their work is handled in their absence. But rather than hurting productivity at Netflix, the policy has helped the company continually innovate—and grow to a market leader with $7 billion in sales.
"Rules and policies and regulations and stipulations are innovation killers,” the article cites Steve Swasey, Netflix's vice-president for corporate communication, as saying. "If you're spending a lot of time accounting for the time you're spending, that's time you're not innovating."
Over at OpenSource, Chris Gram took the concept one step further, wondering if a “no-policy” policy would be even better for businesses. Gram, who spent 10 years at open-source software company Red Hat, writes, “[Red Hat] employees were given a lot of freedom, much more than in any other company I'd ever worked for. Yet Red Hat also had a strong culture of accountability.” In fact, Gram notes, he found that the more freedom the company gave, the more accountability it received in return.
Need another example? Consider Best Buy’s Results Only Work Environment (ROWE), in place since 2005. ROWE gets rid of most traditional rules and expectations about work: Salaried employees are allowed to decide how, when and where they do their work—whether it’s from home, in the office or in the middle of the night. ROWE has had significant positive results on turnover, satisfaction and productivity at Best Buy—which, like Netflix and Red Hat, is one of the most innovative businesses in its arena.
Would a no-policy policy be the best solution for your business? Only you can tell—but it’s one way to shake up your culture and get innovation flowing. For any company seeking to innovate, these success stories suggest the place to start is by getting innovative with your management policies.