Unlimited PTO has become a new trend in the business world and allows people to achieve the balance that they desire between life and work. It works for some companies and doesn’t for others. It was implemented because balance had become such a high priority for individuals, and companies wanted and needed to adjust to their needs.
Though it isn’t often acknowledged, the word balance can place added pressure on an organization and the individuals within it. A vision of balance is sometimes associated with a scale, where both sides are even and fair. But, that has become an unhealthy way to view work and life. Instead, allow the two to blend by encouraging people to find what they view as balance in their own lives, because balance is different for each person. Then, develop a culture surrounding those important values which then supports balance.
The Mexican Fisherman parable is a perfect depiction of how differently people view balance.
An American banker was near the pier of a small coastal Mexican village when a small boat with a fisherman docked. Looking into the small boat there were a few large tuna. The American complimented the Mexican on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took him to catch them.
The Mexican replied, “only a little while.” The American then asked why didn’t you stay out longer and catch more fish?” The Mexican said he had enough to support his family’s immediate needs. The American then asked, “but what do you do with the rest of your time?”
The Mexican fisherman said, “I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take siestas with my wife, Maria, stroll into the village each evening where I sip wine, and play guitar with my amigos. I have a full and busy life.” The American scoffed, “I have a Harvard MBA and could help you. You should spend more time fishing, sell the extra and with the proceeds, buy a bigger boat. With the proceeds from the extra fish brought in from the bigger boat, you could buy several boats, eventually you would have a fleet of fishing boats. Instead of selling your catch to a middleman you would sell directly to the processor, eventually opening your own cannery. You would control the product, processing, and distribution. You would probably need to leave this small coastal fishing village and move to Mexico City, then LA and eventually New York City, where you will run your expanding enterprise.”
The Mexican fisherman asked, “But, how long will this all take?”
To which the American replied, “15 – 20 years.”
“But what then?” Asked the Mexican.
The American laughed and said, “That’s the best part. When the time is right you would announce an IPO and sell your company stock to the public and become very rich, you would make millions!”
“Millions – then what?”
The American said, “Then you would retire. Move to a small coastal fishing village where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take siestas with your wife, stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your amigos.”
Deciding what the word balance means to you and your organization will determine the type of benefits you offer. Whether those benefits be extra PTO, flexible and remote work opportunities, host employee getaways or events or whatever else resonates with your culture it will support balance for your people.