Flexible time off: Sound fun? It can be, if done right.

Recently our People Leadership Team embarked on a journey to see how we could provide a greater benefit to employees, encouraging them to take the time to rest, spend time with their families, run errands, take a mental health day, or indeed go on actual vacation. In order to ensure that we could really drive this culture we needed to look at our vacation policies and how they supported our ultimate goal.

On April 1st we introduced Flexible Time Off (FTO) globally*. The great debate in our industry around unlimited vacation or Flexible PTO wages on and we want to be conscious that our new policy isn’t seen as a negative. Having a strong culture is key to this, as is building some mutual understanding amongst leaders and employees around how we plan to implement and what we expect of all Nitronauts no matter what their role within the organization.

1. Lead by Example: We encourage all managers to lead by example and take their own FTO. How our leaders use and react to taking time off is a key driver of how teams will engage with any personal time off.

2. Performance Management: Managing performance is key for us in implementing our FTO Strategy. One of our core Nitro values is High Performance, and creating a culture where people feel comfortable and good about their performance and role is imperative. This means they will less likely use their leave in a way that would negatively impact their team or the business. FTO ultimately places the responsibility on the shoulders of our leaders and employees as we ask them to be accountable for managing and understanding our performance relative to our goals.

3. Analyzing the Data: Our People Team will monitor FTO Days quarterly to identify any hot spots, potential burnout, etc., to ensure that all Nitronauts are encouraged to take the time they need to be the best they can be at work, but also at home. This data will also drive insight into application across the business.

4. Removing Ambiguity: Many of the pitfalls of uncapped or flexible time off come when there are blurred lines between where specific protected leaves start and end. To that effect we have kept FTO separate from our other leave policies such as sick leave, maternity/paternity leave, parental leave, disability leave, unpaid leave, volunteering time off, etc. FTO is not a replacement of these policies meaning that there should be no ambiguity around what FTO can and can’t be used for. This protects all employees from any one individual abusing or taking for granted the benefit FTO offers.

5. Guidance: To guide employees in using FTO we have identified some best practices in terms of requesting leave, what is considered reasonable, consecutive days, longer term absences, failure to adhere to policy guidelines, and eligibility.

Any approach to FTO involves relying on both managers and employees to ensure that it is successful. For managers, that will mean leading by example while ensuring their team members are taking time off as desired and as necessary, AND ensuring individual and team performance stays on track. For employees, it will mean behaving responsibly and reasonably when it comes to taking time off and respecting the overall goodwill intention of the new policy. In addition, our People Team has a confidential open door policy whereby concerns around instances of abuse or misuse of policy can be aired.

Ultimately, we want to strike a productive and satisfying balance – obviously, we’re all here to achieve our business goals, but we can’t be high performing if we’re not taking the necessary time off to rest and recharge.

To our employees, we say: take some time off! Lose the worry of trying to stay within a specified allowance. Don’t feel that personal time off just has to be for vacation — take an afternoon to run errands, go on a day-date with your partner, pick the children up from school on a Friday, or if you’re working like crazy toward a deadline, plan a mental health day to do something for yourself to relax your body and mind.

As a leader I’ve embraced our new policy as best I can. I have already taken 4 days FTO to go on a staycation with my family and I have an additional 19 days planned for the year; some of which I would have never taken under my accrued annual leave policy, because I wouldn’t have wanted to “waste” a day’s leave. This brings me over and above what would have been my vacation allowance under our old annual leave policy, so I am really feeling and embracing the new benefit. I instill the same sentiment within my team.

Live Well. The Downtime is as important as The Hustle!

*FTO while implemented globally is managed in accordance with our regional legal obligations. Where there is a legal entitlement of leave, employees still retain the right to this entitlement. Where we can uncap this allowance we do so however, specific regions restrict our efforts in some cases to allow for this.