Yesterday's Times explored IBM's attitude towards vacations....

It's every worker's dream: take as much vacation time as you want, on short notice, and don't worry about your boss calling you on it. Cut out early, make it a long weekend, string two weeks together -- as you like. No need to call in sick on a Friday so you can disappear for a fishing trip. Just go; nobody's keeping track.

That is essentially what goes on at I.B.M., one of the cornerstones of corporate America, where each of the 355,000 workers is entitled to three or more weeks of vacation. The company does not keep track of who takes how much time or when, does not dole out choice vacation times by seniority and does not let people carry days off from year to year.

Instead, for the past few years, employees at all levels have made informal arrangements with their direct supervisors, guided mainly by their ability to get their work done on time.
Absolutely one of the coolest aspect of my job is the combined wonder of working from home and the informality of IBM's time-keeping.  I don't work 9-to-5... I just work, and when I can stop, I stop.  Parent-teacher meeting in the middle of the day?  I'll guarantee I'm one of three or four dads mixed in amongst the soccer moms.  Call with Australia at 10 PM?  Yeah, it happens.  Such is the work-life balance.

As for the vacation point of the article, I took a ten-day vacation last month and never missed a beat.  I spent maybe 20-30 minutes a day on e-mail during the trip, and never took a single conference call.  Nobody called my cellphone (which surprised me).  My colleagues covered things for me, as I do/will for them during their vacations.  It all just works.

I've always found it odd that a company of IBM's size and, well, -cough- process doesn't track vacations.  I guess it isn't a problem for them, and from where I sit, it certainly isn't a problem for me.

Slightly related, I was asked last week about covering an event in Beijing later this month.  It falls between the major Jewish holidays, and would have limited my time on the ground to just two or three working days.  It also made business class a real requirement, as I would hit the ground in China at 3 PM on a Monday and be expected to keynote a huge event on Tuesday morning.  In the end, I passed the opportunity to someone who could make the trip more worthwhile.  What was the clincher?  The business class airfare for Chicago-Beijing was, at yesterday's prices, US$14,250.  I would rather have IBM buy me a car for $14K than an airfare (not that that's going to happen), or perhaps someone originating in another city will find a more reasonable fare.  Either way, spending that much for 2-3 work days just isn't prudent.  Fares to Asia are normally less than half that.  I'll have to keep an eye on this in the coming months, with Italy and Australia trips on tap.

Link: New York Times: At I.B.M., a Vacation Anytime, or Maybe None >

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