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Why leave days are crooked
A friend moved twice last year: once to temporary housing and a few months later to her current home. In doing so, she crushed the average in two moves. After all, the average Dutch person picks up their slack once every 10 years (CBS, 2019).
In that respect, her employer seemed generous: no less than every year she was allowed to take one extra day off to move. More than enough, you might say. Surely no one moves that often, right? Until the friend moved twice in the same year. For the first move, she got the promised extra day off. But then came the second move. And what do you think?
Precisely. Bad luck. “Your moving day for this year has already been used up.” It didn’t matter that if she had moved two months later, she could have taken advantage of the next year’s day off. Even though she wouldn’t move at all the following year and wouldn’t take advantage of moving day. Crooked huh?
Rules over individuals
I must admit: I get it, the uniformity thing. Customization is difficult, equality is easy. It has a lot of advantages if everyone is allowed the same thing. No lopsided faces, no people who sell themselves short or abuse the system and it is also easy to register and monitor. That is why in our organizations we often choose to let a general rule prevail over the needs of individual people.
Distrust and control
Still, there is a friction. Uniform practices such as these are in fact based on a human image of distrust and control: “Giving everyone unlimited days off is asking for trouble. Some will get off scot-free, while others will work themselves to death. Unfair! That is why we must restrict freedom. Within reason, of course. For example, everyone may take an extra day off once a year to move. And we will hire people to see to it that everyone keeps to the rules. Fair enough.
Most people are good
Rutger Bregman describes it aptly in his book ‘Humankind’ (2020). The idea that people are essentially self-interested, cannot be trusted and must be controlled is incorrect. Countless studies and past events show just the opposite: most people are good. Most people live up to trust, take responsibility and think not only of their own self-interest but also about that of their colleagues or the organization.
So back to the holidays: how can it be done?
If most people can be trusted, give them that trust. Does someone move twice a year? No problem, then you also get two leave days for moving. It saves administration and besides, if everyone gets an unlimited number of moving days per year, the principle of equality is also preserved.
Organizations with guts could even go a step further and give everyone an unlimited number of days off in the first place. Instead of registering leave, it is better to manage by output and make added value transparent. Just watch, there is really no one who takes 8 weeks off per year without making a reasonable contribution to the organization. Especially in these times of working from home, when control of output is almost the only control that is still feasible, a shift to more trust is needed. So, pick up the gauntlet! Who dares?