by Rob Ratton
At first blush, the idea of unlimited paid vacation sounds like an absurd perk offered only by tech startups full of capital and low on business acumen. Most employers spend considerable time and money guarding their vacation time, making sure that employees do not while away company resources pursuing a life of leisure.
However, over the past few years, unlimited vacation pay has begun to migrate into the stalwarts of traditional American business. For example, a Fortune 500 company recently made this option available to approximately 30,000 members of its senior management. Surprisingly, this new benefit did not result in a mass exodus to island getaways. In contrast, those companies that have implemented this plan have not seen a great uptick in the amount of vacation days taken.
The Right Culture
Under the right circumstances, an unlimited vacation policy is a cooperative display of trust between employer and employee. Ideally, allowing employees to take paid time when necessary shows a great deal of faith in your employees’ judgment and dedication. In the wrong circumstance, the offer of unlimited vacation can be perceived as a threat comparable to a parent telling a child that they are free to eat candy before dinner. Without a sense of trust, unlimited vacation might be perceived as a revocation of all vacation time.
Another issue is logistics. In a project-oriented business, employers are less concerned about when their employees are present as long as the job is done. However, this policy does not carry over well if you provide security guard services or are in retail. In some businesses, you need boots on the ground and you need a reasonable assurance of when they will be there.
Potential Legal Issues
Even the most noble of aspirations can create serious legal issues. A poorly conceived unlimited vacation policy can effectively eviscerate unpaid leave. Most companies allow an employee out on FMLA leave to use vacation time to supplement income. However, if you have unlimited vacation, you have converted three months of unpaid protected leave into three months of protected paid leave.
The problem grows even more complicated when one looks at potential discrimination issues. A number of companies have applied this leave to only a specific class of workers. If your company has significant disparities between different job classes along the lines of race, gender, or national origin, your policy could be seen as discriminatory. Furthermore, a company can deny a reasonable accommodation under the ADA only when there is an undue hardship. Employees denied temporary leave for a disability could point to an unlimited vacation policy as an indication of disability discrimination.
Statistics are clear: The average American worker is putting in more hours at the office and fewer hours on vacation. It is also clear that these longer hours come at a cost to productivity. Furthermore, traditional vacation policies are both expensive and time-consuming to maintain. Well-drafted unlimited vacation policies in the right corporate culture have been successful. However, the devil is always in the details, and any attempts to make this sort of transition must be carefully thought out.
Rob Ratton is an attorney with the law offices of Fisher & Phillips.
by Sam Cicci
Henry Turley, owner of the Henry Turley Company, doesn’t view his office as much of an office. “I’m not trying to convey anything, I just live here,” he says after being asked about the image his office wants to project. And on multiple levels, it’s true. The clutter, awards, newspaper clippings, and artwork are distinctly “Memphis” and representative of his large body of work in the city. His office, located at the top of the Cotton Exchange building, has a stellar view of Downtown. A balcony stretches around the perimeter of the building, which stands taller than most and lets Turley look out over some of the buildings he has renovated. At midday, the Bass Pro Shop several blocks down is lit up with reflecting sunlight.
As the head of a prominent Memphis real estate company, Turley spends most of his time between the office and his projects. The most recent, South Line at Central Station, was finished in early July and has been steadily moving in tenants. The apartment lies in the South End, next to other Turley properties South Junction, South Bluffs, and Lofts at South Bluffs. They are some of the newest additions to his several-decades-long goal of quality redevelopment. When he started out in the 1960s, Turley said he would have gone either into real estate or worked as a farmer. He chose the former and quickly set about looking for ways to improve the city. However, it took a few years before he was able to get his revitalization under way. “I was quite deliberate about getting into development simply because nobody was doing it downtown, the inner city, and I thought it needed to be done, but that wasn’t until 1977,” he says.
In the interim, it was very difficult to find people willing to help out with redevelopment. At that point, downtown projects had been abandoned to pursue developments out east. Turley was one of the few people committed to improving the area.
Redevelopment in downtown Memphis was an entirely new concept, but with some impressive designs, Turley sought outside help and went about creating what are now South Bluffs and Harbor Town, two downtown developments that allow tenants to have a larger sense of community.
For all the hardship, though, Turley wouldn’t have it any other way. Around his office are touches and furnishings that trace his life and work. Along with the surrounding city he’s worked so hard to improve, these make up his “home” in the heart of downtown Memphis.
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[Editor’s note: Henry Turley is a shareholder of Contemporary Media Inc., parent company of Inside Memphis Business.]
by Meg Crosby
According to Deloitte Consulting, Millenials will be 75 percent of the workforce by 2025. Yes, read that sentence again. Their presence as a majority is not the only change we will see in the workplace in the coming 10 years. Here are four other trends we are keeping an eye on.
I recently had the opportunity to visit the renowned Stanford University School of Design, or “D-School” for short. This think tank is re-thinking how we interact with our surroundings and looking at spatial innovations in corporate settings, classroom settings, and even in our homes. One common theme cuts across all categories — flexibility. Everything at the D-School is modular and on wheels for easy movement. Each work space comes with a set of furniture that can be configured in multiple ways to best suit the user’s need — whether that may be an individual work space, a conference setting, classroom, etc. Of course, all spaces are tricked out with the latest technologies and mobile devices, too. All of you recovering cubicle dwellers from the “open floor plan” era will appreciate the workplace of the future that you can configure on demand.
Let’s face it, everyone hates annual performance reviews. They are time consuming, anxiety producing, and rarely lead to any meaningful change. To quote an article from Strategy + Business magazine, “Conventional Performance Management has been linked to high levels of attrition, low productivity, and significant problems with collaboration.” Increasingly, the trend is for companies to scrap their annual review process in favor of something more strategic and impactful. The biggest shift you will see in performance management is away from “evaluating past performance” to more frequent and forward-looking processes and behaviors that “drive future performance.” Companies will start asking themselves, “What drives performance in our organization and how do we create a culture that values those things and unleashes that potential?” The secret sauce for success lies in those answers.
Elevation of HR
It turns out that people are a particularly important asset for companies in a knowledge economy. It follows, then, that elevating the people function (HR) to a seat at the highest strategic level would be an important move for companies hoping to stay ahead of the curve on attracting, motivating, and retaining talent. If you have not heard the acronym CHRO, you will. Harvard Business Review’s July 2015 issue featured the provocative title: “It’s Time to Blow Up HR and Build Something New.” Inside this issue, in their article “People Before Strategy,” the authors contend, “It’s time for HR to make the same leap the finance function has made in recent decades and become a true partner to the CEO. Maintaining human capital must be accorded the same priority that managing financial capital came to have in the 1980s.” FastCompany’s recent article “What Will Work Look Like in 2030” calls for a “Chief of Work” position at the C-Suite level to “set the culture” and “drive the work agenda.” Whichever moniker you prefer, the elevation of the people function to a strategic and executive level will be a significant shift in the coming years.
Not all future trends are positive. If you’re like me, you are probably experiencing this one in your own home — perhaps during that precious “family time” when everyone is sitting in the same room but looking at their respective devices. In 2015, Susan Sobel-Lojeski introduced the concept of “virtual distance” to describe the psychological distance created by an overreliance on technology in communicating. As our reliance on technology increases, our ability to form authentic trust-based relationships decreases. This explains the “connectivity paradox” we are all experiencing, which is that the more connected we are, the more isolated we feel. Virtual distance is a real threat to the workplace because relationships are the lifeblood of any business and foster critical skills like innovation, collaboration, and teamwork. The antidote for this negative trend is more face-to-face communication. People are starved for it. Remember this next time you email the guy in the cubicle next to you.
Meg Crosby is a principal with PeopleCap Advisors.
An established home cleaning service is bringing Memphians back to their roots with a new, natural product line.
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