At IBM, Workers' Delight

By Deb Perelman  |  Posted 2007-08-31 Print this article Print

Will you be at work today until 5 p.m. or beyond while all of your buddies are already at the bar or on the road to the shore, their holiday weekends in progress while you've got hours of the grind to go?

Do you dream of working at a company that lets you take as much vacation time as you want, on minimal notice, and a boss who will never call you to check in? One in which you can cut out early, make it a long weekend or maybe string two workweeks together for a mini-vacation at the end?

Employees at IBM don't just dream of this arrangement, they take part in it every day, according to an Aug. 31 article in the New York Times. Every one of Big Blue's 335,000 workers are entitled to three or more weeks of vacation each year, and the company does not keep track of who takes how much time or when. It does not dole out choice vacation times by seniority, and it does not allow vacation times to roll over from year to year.

Instead, employees make informal arrangements with their supervisors and communicate their schedule through shared online calendars, including how they can be reached in a pinch.

But before you march into IBM's Somers, N.Y., headquarters, throw yourself at their mercy and beg for employment there, keep in mind that like all idyllic-sounded arrangements, there are some drawbacks.

The first is peer pressure. As boundaries between work and time off are blurred, employees at the company are more likely than other workers to check in while they're away. Furthermore, they rely on cues from their superiors to ensure they're not coming off as slackers, or abusers of the arrangement.

"If leadership never takes time off, people will be skeptical whether they can," Kim Stattner of Hewitt Associates, a human resources consultant, told the New York Times. "There is the potential for a domino effect."

Other employees said that they ended up never using all of their allotted vacation time, afraid of seeming like an outsider in a workaholic culture.

IBM officials said that they did not know whether employees took all of their time or not because they hadn't studied the policies efficiency.

Nevertheless, the trend toward untracked time off is happening at more and more technology companies, which hope that offering more flexibility will help them compete with "the more freewheeling atmosphere at startups," rivals that have successfully lured away corporate talent over the years. |

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