Open Voluntary vs. Minimum Mandatory

Mathias Meyer at Paperplanes: “From Open (Unlimited) to Minimum Vacation Policy”:

I was horrified reading this, and it dawned on me how wrong we’ve approached our internal vacation policy. This text sums up exactly what’s wrong with an open vacation policy. People take less time off, and it’s celebrated as a success of giving people more responsibility.

Uncertainty about how many days are okay to take time off can also stir inequality. It can turn into a privilege for some people who may be more aggressive in taking vacations compared to people who feel like their work and their appreciation at work would suffer from being away for too long.

From my experience living and working in Japan, this would be viewed as a feature — not a bug — in most Japanese workplaces. Quitting time and time off are both on an invisibly-adjusted sliding scale, modified by seniority and other opaque social cues. The result is that you are never sure about when you can go home from work. You are never sure about how much time you can take off. You explicitly have only a maximum amount of time you can take off. No one wants to violate social norms and be considered a selfish piece of shit, so no one ever, ever takes all of the time off they are theoretically entitled to.

I honestly would consider killing for a job where the people in charge of the company thought like this:

Starting in 2015, we’ve implemented a minimum vacation policy. Rather than giving no guideline on what’s a good number of days to take off, everyone now has a required minimum of 25 (paid) vacation days per year, no matter what country they live in. When people want to take time off beyond that, that’s good, and the minimum policy still allows for that. But it sets a lower barrier of days that we expect our employees to focus on their own well-being rather than work.

This policy is not just a guideline for our employees, it’s mandatory for everyone, including the people who originally founded the company. As leaders, we need to set examples of what constitutes a healthy balance between work and life rather than give an example that life is all about the hustle.

… instead of the normal Japanese model, where you are expected to show your dedication by working more than everyone else, taking less time off, working longer hours, and do all that extra work without demanding any overtime pay.


A tie-in to an earlier post I did on Rat Park, Johann Hari has written an article (link via Robert McGinley Myers at Anxious Machine) that in part serves to promote his book, Chasing the Scream, about the war on drugs and the real drivers of addiction. Addiction is not caused by the drugs themselves. This is backed up by both studies and practical real-world trials. As one of Hari’s sources, Professor of Psychology Bruce Alexander is quoted as saying, “… addiction is an adaption. It’s not you. It’s your cage.”

Want to stop the harmful effects of drugs? Treat the causes — disconnection, isolation, lack of contact and socialization — not the resulting use of drugs as a poor substitute for those unmet needs.

Twenty years ago, even among other college students I was considered an ultra-liberal wacko for saying that drugs should be legalized, regulated, taxed, and the resulting revenues used to help addicts by treating them for any mental illnesses, and helping them to find jobs or enter vocational training. Maybe more people are ready to listen to Hari now.

New Year's Resolutions

I don’t make New Year’s resolutions. If I’m going to make a change, I do it right then. Why put it off until next year when you can Do it Now? Aside from falling back into bad habits [1], procrastination and basic laziness short-circuit most people’s attempts to establish new patterns.

It may take longer than you think to establish a new habit — depending on the behavior you’re trying to change — but that’s no reason to hold off on doing it until a particular date. Instead, you should start immediately.

Whatever you do, do it. Keep doing it. Make the changes in your life that you want to make. You can’t control the outside world, but you can change how you interact with it. So do it.

  1. For those who are aural learners, here’s the You Are Not So Smart podcast on extinction bursts.  ↩