Main image of article Microsoft Joins the Unlimited PTO Bandwagon

Microsoft is the latest company to give its employees unlimited vacation time.

“How, when, and where we do our jobs has dramatically changed,” Kathleen Hogan, Microsoft’s chief people officer, wrote in an internal memo excerpted in The Verge. “And as we’ve transformed, modernizing our vacation policy to a more flexible model was a natural next step.” That’s in addition to 10 corporate holidays, sick time off, and leaves of absence.

Microsoft follows other tech giants such as Netflix that have offered unlimited vacation time for years. Despite fears of an oncoming recession and widespread layoffs among some Silicon Valley companies, competition for the best tech talent remains fierce nationwide, and even giants like Microsoft need to do everything they can to ensure their current and future employees are happy with their benefits packages. Evidently, Microsoft executives thought traditional PTO (i.e., employees accruing limited hours) put them at a disadvantage.

According to the most recent Dice Salary Report, some 8 percent of technology professionals enjoy unlimited vacation time, far fewer than those offered 3 weeks (23 precent), 2 weeks (18 percent), or 4 weeks (17 percent). For those companies that opt for it, unlimited vacation time offers some advantages—they don’t need to pay out unused PTO when employees leave, for instance, and they can use the perk to attract and retain talent.

But for employees, unlimited vacation offers some potential downsides. Over the past few years, surveys have found that employees with unlimited PTO tend to take slightly fewer days off than their counterparts with limited PTO (13 days versus 15 days, according to a 2020 review by HR vendor Namely). At high-performing companies with a rapid cadence of deadlines and deliverables, employees can face pressure to use as few “unlimited” days as possible, and managers can have a harder time tracking which team members are taking full advantage of time off.

Tech professionals who don’t fully utilize their vacation time risk burnout. If you’re feeling particularly crispy, it’s not just a matter of taking some time off; you should also talk to your manager about your workload, stressors, and even the potential for shifting your schedule.