Taking Time Off, Stress-Free: How to Efficiently Organize Unlimited PTO. Interview with TRAFFIT
June 1, 2023
Unlimited holidays are a trend that is still not very popular, but there are already companies in Poland that decided to use this solution. Among them is one of Calamari's clients – TRAFFIT – a tool supporting all stages of the recruitment process. We talked to Anika Osmólska, Head of People & Culture at Traffit. Check how they introduced the unlimited leave policy and learn useful tips for doing it right in your company.
1. For starters – tell us about your team, its development and the characteristics that made it possible for you to discuss the introduction of unlimited holidays?
Anika: At the time of planning the strategy and growth for 2021, our team consisted of over 30 people. We assumed that in order to fulfil our plans, we don't want to double the number of people in the team, but we want to focus on the development of our current employees. We knew we had to create a transparent goal-based development system for everyone to make that happen.
This is how we created TRAFFIT Pathways, which guarantees transparent remuneration and development paths for every person employed at TRAFFIT. With Pathways, everyone knew their tasks and what to focus on at work to be successful. A very important aspect is that our employees decide on the pace of their promotion and how they will achieve specific goals. We focused on transparency, trust, and team responsibility.
The introduction of TRAFFIT Pathways based on these values has become more than just a system – it has given direction to our organizational culture. Working with adults and mature people allowed us to go a step further and opened the possibility of talks about the introduction of unlimited paid holidays.
2. Let's go back in time – what was your leave policy like before the introduction of unlimited holiday days in Traffit?
Anika: People employed under an employment contract were entitled to holiday leave in accordance with the labour law, while people employed under a B2B contract could take days off but unpaid. Before we finally decided on unlimited paid holidays, we offered B2B people 12 days of paid holidays, but soon this idea turned into an unlimited amount.
3. Why did you decide to introduce unlimited days off? What was the trigger for the decision?
Anika: Working on specific goals and giving responsibility to individual employees, we decided that we're ready to give it a try.
We wanted to support employees in achieving their goals, and this move was supposed to create space for each person to manage their work and decide about their free time. In our opinion, it's more effective to give employees the opportunity to take time off when they feel that they need to rest for 1-2 days and will come back with double strength. Who knows better that we need a break than we do?
That's why we have provided employees with an unlimited number of paid days off so that they don't work when they feel it's beyond their strength. As long as we fulfil our tasks on time and achieve our goals, no one will know when they were delivered.
A frequently asked question is whether it was a move aimed at EB and increasing our attractiveness on the market. However, it wasn't a motivator because we have no plans to significantly enlarge our team, but we want to take care of the current one. However, it's an additional benefit that attracts talents to our company, even when we aren't actively recruiting. So, although the introduction of unlimited paid leaves was supposed to take care of the team, there isn't denying that it also positively affects the employer brand outside**.
4 Who was involved in the decision to introduce unlimited PTO?
Anika: The idea to introduce unlimited PTO came from Adrian Wolak, CEO of TRAFFIT and Mick Griffin, Chief of Growth. However, before it was implemented, the whole idea was discussed with the managers of each of the teams. We wanted to make the final decision together with the confidence it wouldn't harm any departments, and people managing other people also see the benefit in it.
5. So you've decided that you want to introduce unlimited leave days – what was the process of transforming the holiday policy? What did you have to take care of before implementation?
Anika: The decision was made at the end of 2021, and we wanted to implement a policy of unlimited paid leaves from January 2022.
In the case of people employed under an employment contract, we didn't have to take any formal action**. They were still entitled to a minimum holiday leave of 20 or 26 days (depending on the years worked) guaranteed by the labour code.
However, for people on contracts, we had to prepare new contracts and change the hourly settlement to monthly. After the introduction of unlimited holidays, we settle accounts with these employees on a task-based basis, not on the basis of hours worked. Besides, we didn't have to make big revolutions when it comes to formalities.
The next step was to prepare proper communication with employees. We had to make sure that the first message clearly explained the reasons and assumptions for unlimited paid holidays. Additionally, after the official announcement, each manager spoke to their team to make sure everything was understood correctly.
Unlimited leave policy implementation checklist from TRAFFIT
Determining what the unlimited leave policy is for
Adapting employees' contracts to legal requirements (B2B)
Equipping the organization with a program for leave reporting
Preparing the appropriate communication to employees
Announcing the policy of unlimited holidays
Managers talk to teams to make sure everything is understood correctly. Resolving employees' doubts
Analysis of the newly implemented system and introduction of possible corrections
6. Let's talk about the lessons you learned from this process: did you miss something and implement it after the fact?
Anika: We implemented leaves in January 2022, and about a month later, it turned out that we lack a tool that would streamline the entire process of reporting leaves. We also wanted to track the number of days off taken by employees. It was supposed to help us in analysis of the newly implemented idea. Finally, in March 2022, the choice fell on Calamari, and since then, it has made our work easier.
7. How do unlimited holidays affect the well-being and mood of employees?
Anika: Most people reacted very enthusiastically about unlimited paid holidays, but at the beginning, there were also voices of uncertainty.
Those who had never been entitled to such paid leave argued that it would be better to impose a cap on days off because they would feel more comfortable and no one would look negatively when they used up the whole pool. Therefore, a very important role was played by managers who were to set an example for others by taking time off. It worked pretty well for us because they quickly encouraged others and proved that unlimited holidays are not a hoax or a marketing ploy and you can safely use them.
From the beginning of the implementation, we can see that unlimited days off have an excellent effect on the well-being and mood of employees. More than once, I met a case when someone decided to rest for 1-2 days and came back with new energy and ideas. Employees can also work intensively for a period of time because they know that after the end of the project, they will take a few days off to reset. I can see how it works in my case, and now I don't hoard time off "just in case", whereas earlier, a few days of my holiday leave were transferred to the following year. When I feel it's time to rest, I just take a vacation.
8. And how does such a vacation affect team productivity?
Anika: It seems that productivity has increased. There were cases where people returned to work after a few days of vacation saying, "I have an idea!" and it turned out that they were really cool ideas that worked well for us.
9. Do unlimited holidays create problems with the availability of employees in teams? Do they somehow influence the development of the product?
Anika: One of the responsibilities of teams after the introduction of unlimited PTO was that they arrange their own days off. The manager gets information about the vacancy after determining it first between team members. The point is to agree on a possible replacement, delegate tasks, etc.
I have to admit it turned out really well. Teams have been proving from the beginning that they are able to organize work and holidays without involving managers. Thanks to this, tasks and responsibilities are always taken care of during the absence of employees responsible for a given topic. We haven't noticed a negative impact of unlimited holidays on the speed of work on the product we create.
10. Are there any aspects of the unlimited leave policy introduction you didn't know about before?
Anika: Honestly, it didn't really surprise us much.
11. So you must have had good sources – where did you get your knowledge about the introduction of unlimited PTO?
Anika: The inspiration was Netflix, and the idea itself and the Polish reality we consulted with the Polish company SYZYGY, which had already implemented unlimited PTO.
12. How do you organize information flow regarding unlimited holidays?
Anika: As I mentioned earlier, after the introduction of unlimited holidays, we immediately felt the lack of a tool that would improve the flow of information about holidays.
We were looking for a system that is easy to use, has integration with Slack and the [Google] calendar(https://calamari.io/leave-management/google-workspace-integrationhttps://calamari.io/leave-management/google-workspace-integration), because we use it every day. It was also very important for the tool to cover the issues of additional types of leave available to persons employed under an employment contract. All our expectations were met by Calamari.
Since the implementation, we can easily report vacancies via Slack, which is always at hand, and the manager automatically receives a notification also on Slack and by email. In addition, we have a separate calendar visible to each employee, where we can see the holidays of all people in the company. It's also nice that on the day of vacation, Slack automatically changes the status to palm, so you don't even have to remember to change it because it happens automatically.
Reports that clearly show the data we are interested in are also very helpful. We can, for example, quickly let a given employee know that he hasn't been on vacation for a long time and that he should plan some time off.
13. It's great that you use Calamari – was it easy to adapt the tool to your needs? How was the process?
A great support in the implementation was a dedicated person from Customer Success – Kasia – who sent me the entire plan, what needs to happen step by step, along with helpful articles in the first message.
I tried to configure some things myself, but Kasia was very helpful, and with some steps, it was enough that I sent, e.g. data and Kasia set it up on our account. I felt very taken care of at every stage of the implementation. And although unlimited paid holidays are not standard on the market, Calamari met all our expectations and needs.
14. Which Calamari functionalities are most useful for the unlimited leave policy?
Anika: Certainly, the option of appointing your deputy during your absence is important to me. If we were to forget this, the whole project could fail because people could leave tasks unattended, or it would be unclear who took over which tasks.
Integration with Slack and Google Calendar is also essential to us because we can be sure that no one will forget to report their leave and that the right people will be informed. Logging into another tool often results in people just not doing it. And thanks to the integration, we can be sure that everything goes smoothly and as agreed.
Types of leave and exemptions available in Calamari are also important. Same as the fact that we can add our own – just like unlimited paid leave. People employed under an employment contract continue to take sick leave or maternity leave, which is why a clear division is very helpful for us and for accounting.
Another helpful function is the calendar, which not only shows other people's holidays but also, at the time of reporting, we can see who from our team on the day we initially selected is already on vacation. We can quickly check this information in the tool.
15. Finally – how do you check the effectiveness of the unlimited holiday policy – what indicators and for what purpose do you use it?
Anika: Reports allow us to see basic data, i.e. how much time off a given employee took at a given time. We had a record holder who took the most vacation days in a year, and we combined this with the fact that he always delivered each task on time and had a lot of positive energy. There were many more such people, and this is certainly one of the leading indicators that unlimited holidays work for us.
16. Do you have any other advice or tips for people reading this interview?
Anika: Unlimited paid holidays are not just a clickbait slogan but really something that can bring a lot of good to the organization.
However, before we introduce them to the company, it's worth verifying whether we, as an organization, are ready for such a step. This will work when supervisors trust their employees and the team is accountable and knows how to manage their work and free time. It's also very important to set clear goals and tasks for everyone with a time when we expect results. If we communicate openly with each other, it shouldn't be too much of a problem.
It's also worth considering what exactly unlimited paid holidays are for. It isn't worth copying and pasting from other organizations that are already doing it, but drawing inspiration. Everyone is different and has different needs. If we're not sure about something, just ask them how it works for them. Companies that have decided to take such a step are usually very open and willing to share their experiences.
We would like to thank Anika Osmólska from TRAFFIT for sharing with us the experience related to the introduction of unlimited holidays to their organization.
A well-organized policy of unlimited holidays can provide your employees with a work-life balance that will make them happy, full of energy and more productive. Good organization is primarily well-developed rules, clear communication and a tool that will help in the daily management of unlimited holidays. Try Calamari, trusted by TRAFFIT and see how it can facilitate your daily work.