'No resilience' | City firm gives unlimited leave to 'fed up' staff - research shows it might not work

City firm gives unlimited leave to 'fed up' staff - research shows it might not work

A stockbroker has joined the ranks of firms offering unlimited paid time off for its employees as the battle against burnout rumbles on.

As reported by the BBC, Finncapp has rolled out its new policy following months of extra strain on the workforce as a result of the pandemic.

Not only will workers be able to take an unlimited amount of time off, but they’ll also have to take a minimum of four weeks leave over the year. This means two or three days every quarter.

The move to offering unlimited annual leave is common among firms within the tech sector, such as Facebook, but far less common among financial services companies.

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In fact, it was only earlier this year that junior workers at Goldman Sachs spoke out about the extreme burnout being caused by “inhumane” working conditions and long working weeks, as reported by the Financial Times.

In a leaked 11-page presentation created by 13 Goldman Sachs workers back in March, research showed that the average amount of hours worked in a single week totalled 105, whilst the average amount of hours slept per night was just five.

But rather than cut the working hours or offer more PTO, the financial giant instead said it would increase its base pay for first-year bankers to £80,000, with Second-year bankers seeing a rise to £89,000.

Staff were ‘fed up’

Finncapp’s Chief Executive, Sam Smith, told the BBC that the company began contemplating the unlimited leave policy earlier this year, after noticing how much mental health strain employees were under.

"People were fed up and had no resilience left because of having been in the pandemic for a long time," she told the broadcaster.

"There were no boundaries, no respite, it was just constant," she added.

Does “unlimited” time off work?

Finncapp’s decision to also impose a minimum amount of time off could help offset the potential negative effects that can come with unlimited leave policies.

In 2018, for example, software firm CharlieHR scrapped its unlimited time off policy, which had been in place since the firm’s creation three years earlier, because they found that staff were actually taking less time off.

"I always felt a little nervous asking for time off because I wasn't really sure if I was asking for too much – I didn't know what the norm was," one colleague said in an internal survey, while another commented: "I remember guessing at whether I was taking the mick... and what other people across the company would think of my usage? I felt like I was somehow doing something against the best interest of the company and my team-mates."

Does extra-time off really help burnout?

Another alternative to unlimited leave, introduced at several major firms since the start of the pandemic, has been company-wide shutdowns. The likes of LinkedIn, dating app Bumble and even Nike have shuttered their operations for several days at various stages in recent months, in the hopes that staff will return refreshed and recharged.

However, some studies have suggested that simply giving staff a few extra days off is not the most effective way to reduce the stress and fatigue that has reached epidemic levels over the past 18 months.

Analytics solutions firm Visier recently surveyed 1,000 full-time employees across the US about their experiences with workplace burnout.

The results found that time off work, often seen as the best way to recharge, isn’t enough to alleviate the chronic burnout the majority of employees are experiencing.

While more than half (54%) of employees anticipate taking more time off this year compared to last year, one-third reported they’re expected to check in on work while on vacation. Additionally, nearly half (49%) of employees said PTO only temporarily relieves their burnout.

Surprisingly, the Visier study also found that more than 37% of employees said they’re not comfortable talking to their supervisor about their burnout. When asked why, employees’ top reason was a fear of being seen as incapable of doing their jobs.

Furthermore, 73% of those surveyed believed that managing burnout was their responsibility and not their employer’s.

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