Why unlimited holidays are out and sprint holidays are in

It’s the end of the summer holidays. The kids are back in school and, for Suzie, this year’s trip is now nothing more than a distant memory. Feelings of relaxation have been replaced by inbox anxiety (see here) and Suzie’s thoughts have quickly turned to wondering when it is next acceptable to take some more time off…? One month? Two? Heck, three? OK, three it is.

Slowly – very slowly – three months pass, and November approaches, Suzie feels exhausted. Sure, she had two weeks off in August but she hasn’t taken any time since then. As a result, Suzie’s close to burnout, has 15 days to take in the next six weeks, yet will only request to book five as she doesn’t want to leave her team in the lurch…

… we confess, Suzie is a fictional character but her story is relatable to many, right?

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Ripping up the rulebook

Recently, wellbeing in the workplace has taken centre stage with more employers than ever ensuring that they have the right offerings in place to ensure a happy, healthy workforce.

One area on this that is constantly being disrupted, particularly in the startup space, is holiday allowance. Many are ditching the ‘traditional’ holiday limit, instead replacing it with more agile processes, that suit the way their team works and encourage all to take regular holidays throughout the year.

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Challengers leading the charge

One popular solution has been for challenger brands to offer unlimited holidays. In theory, this allows employees to take off as much time as they want, whenever they want.

It was Netflix that invented this. The idea is that the company trusts their employee to manage their tasks and projects, and to structure their time according to what needs to get done.

A stream of positive feedback led a number of well-known companies to follow in Netflix’s footsteps. Today, Virgin, Grant Thornton and LinkedIn, all offer unlimited time off as part of their perks.

The benefits are thought to be vast with many citing employees take more regular holiday and burnout rates have dropped. But as with all disruption, with the positives come the negatives, Elliott Rodriguez, director of HR and people at career site TheLadders, points out that it can be hard to ensure employees take the same amount of time off, which may be deemed unfair. Slate’s Matthew Yglesias also goes so far as to argue that certain companies offer unlimited vacation ‘because they know perfectly well employees won’t use it.”

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One week on, One week off

Luckily it’s rare in the world of disruption that people believe one size fits all. As such, companies are continuously trying to solve the holiday conundrum, offering a variety of different solutions.

Designer Stefan Sagmeister revealed in his TED talk, “The Power of Time Off,” that every seven years he takes one year off. “In that year,” he said, “we are not available for any of our clients. We are totally closed. And as you can imagine, it is a lovely and very energetic time.”

Unsurprisingly, seven years on, one year off, is unlikely to be viable for the majority, particularly fresh, smaller startup brands. So Shashank Nigam, the CEO of SimpliFlying, a global aviation strategy firm, recently iterated this into shorter bursts.

“…compulsory one week of leave every seven weeks for all staff,” says Shashank.

“Of course, the leaves had to be staggered but the key was the staff had to be completely cut off from work. There was just one simple rule: Reply to an email and you wouldn’t be paid. React to a Slack message and you won’t be paid for that week.”

He claims the results, albeit from a relatively small sample size, were impressive. Creativity went up 33%, happiness levels rose 25%, and productivity increased 13%.

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Recharging your workforce

Now that summer is fading away, set some time to review your holiday process

Be sure to research each thoroughly before deciding what is right for you and your workforce, and take some time to consider that alongside the actual holiday allowance itself, there may be other ways you can reinforce the importance of taking time out. For example, Guy Hayward, CEO at professional recruiter Goodman Masson, offers “an exotic holiday fund, which is in place for our people to take long distance, long holidays – so two or three weeks away. We pay for that holiday upfront and they can pay that back through a series of salary deductions over 18 months – that’s how serious we take encouraging people to have long holidays.”

Whatever you decide, embrace the work/life balance and ensure your holiday policy encourages time out. After all, everyone needs vitamin sea every once in awhile.

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What they don’t tell you when you’re seeking investment

“And so that’s why you should invest in my company…”

There I was in a coffee shop near Oxford Circus pitching all over again. Products scattered all over the table, I was mid-way through convincing an angel investor to back my company, an eyewear subscription business when a gentleman wearing a suit and glasses walks over.

He looked at the stuff on the table, looked me up and down and asked if I was a competitor of theirs. Turns out the guy standing in front of me was Kevin Cornils, CEO of Glasses Direct, the largest eyewear distributor in the UK.

Aware that I was mid-pitch to a prospective investor, I gave Kevin my brief elevator pitch before exchanging numbers and carrying on with my meeting.

Obviously, as soon as my pitch ended I made it my mission to connect with Kevin. Over the next 18 months, we got to know each other over three coffees. Initially, Kevin wasn’t interested in working with us. We’d just meet to chat – talk about the market, what the American’s were doing and exchange thoughts.

Yet, each time we met, our conversations became more interesting and it made more sense to collaborate – We’d just broken into the market as a premium subscription company, in a space where Glasses Direct wanted to be. So, after 15 months, we made a decision to sell to them.

Ok, ok… so I understand that it’s not everyday the CEO of the company you want to sell to happens to walk into the coffee shop you happen to be in. And I understand it’s not everyday that the CEO happens to be interested in the product you happen to be pitching.

But, that’s not the point of my story.

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I wouldn’t be in the situation I was in if I hadn’t put myself out there in the first place and met with this angel investor.

Because it wasn’t always easy. Running a business is a constant hustle. Especially in the beginning.

Starting out I was just a guy with an idea trying to make it happen. Sure, I wore glasses but I had no clue about starting a glasses business. Neither had my business partner, YeeMun. I had a background in finance, YeeMun in content, and we wondered numerous times if we even belonged in this field.

We learned by doing.

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This is what you don’t always read… the struggle to even get the business going is real. Very real.

We knew we needed investment to get a prototype and launch our website. So, naively, we went about finding people to pitch to: we contacted friends, blind messaged people on Linkedin and relied on referrals to meet with as many people as possible.

It was tiring. Really tiring. And there were no tickbox guidelines for us to follow, just the belief that the more people we met with, the more likely we’d be in finding someone who believed in our idea.

So we went about setting up coffees.

And, we dated… a lot.

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What people don’t tell you when you’re raising money is that it is much like dating, you meet two or three times before deciding if you like each other or not. And be warned, when pitching to investors they won’t guide you, you’re going in blind.

Fortunately, after experimenting on my first five pitches, I began to realise that pitching was actually quite formulaic. Whilst almost every investor will only pledge money if they like you, the questions they’re likely to ask are largely the same – think market size, exit strategy, amount of money you’d like! It was like practicing a script over and over again. Sure enough, each time you do it, you get better.

The point of my story is, I wouldn’t be sitting where I am now, in the position I’m in now if I didn’t hustle in the very beginning. It’s hard work but if you stop dreaming and start hustling, you might just make it.

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