How do CEOs go on vacation

This CEO gives his employees as much vacation as they want

Managers can reward their employees with many things. With praise, for example, the easiest and friendliest form of employee motivation. With an increase in salary, the classic. Or, for example, with more free time each year.

Ullrich Kastner, a former Unister manager, founded the B2B platform Myhotelshop in Leipzig five years ago. The company helps with the marketing of hotels, it places advertisements for them and evaluates their success. 1.5 years ago, the Düsseldorf travel portal Trivago took over 61 percent of the startup.

Around 1,800 customers now use Myhotelshop. And around 40 people work for the startup. Starting this year, the founder wants to grant them a special kind of freedom. From now on you can take as much vacation as you want: without any loss of salary.

In an interview, he explains why he believes that the employees will not take advantage of the system and everyone in the company will benefit from it.

Ullrich, how long do you take vacation a year yourself?

Officially, I have 20 days of vacation in the contract, but last year I have been away for more than six weeks. However, even when I am on vacation, I work around three to four hours a day, answering emails or making phone calls. If I couldn't be reached, I wouldn't be able to relax properly. But that doesn't apply to my employees.

Why do you want to give your team unlimited free time now?

In general, I am against the lemon principle, which is often used in management consultancies or in other startups when they want to make a quick exit. They then want to get the most out of their employees in a short period of time. We should, however, still exist in a few years, the employees should be relaxed and satisfied. It is therefore important that they have regular days off. In addition, the company becomes more attractive as an employer. I copied the concept from our parent company Trivago. It is customary there for employees to be allowed to take as much vacation as they want.

Aren't you afraid that only couch potatoes will apply to you?

Of course we're not hiring them. We are aimed at people of the so-called Generation Y who like to realize themselves, take on personal responsibility and want a good work-life balance for themselves. Money alone is not a reason to come to a company. It also saves me time. We are a small team, the personnel management is in my hands. It should work by itself, I thought to myself.

You actually do away with weekly working hours.

The only requirement is that someone is always there during the core working hours of our customers. I am confident that the individual teams can handle this themselves. Sometimes I get to the office later because I'm still taking the children to daycare. And it has become common practice among our IT students that they only show up here around noon. All employees should now have such freedom. And if a new system leads to abuse, we just get rid of it. It is a process that employees can help shape.

Why do you think that in the future you will not be alone in the office because the others are sitting on the beach or on balconies?

I am not a fan of large companies in which the individual is drowned in the crowd. Such a concept would probably be wrong. But it will work out well for us because the employees have team goals rather than individual goals. I am convinced that they will coordinate well in their departments in order to achieve their goals. If someone goes on too much vacation, the team will take care of it all by themselves. In addition, my employees understand that we have to make money. If nobody is working, everyone will soon have a lot of free time.

That sounds like pressure.

I would rather call it teamwork. It can happen that you take three, four or five weeks vacation. The teams have to adjust to this. It is estimated that employees will not go on a trip around the world for three or four months. My colleagues would probably not accept that. We tested the new vacation rule with three employees last year and it worked extremely well.

What criteria did you use to choose the three?

You are already working in a well-functioning unit. At the end of the year, I compared how often they were sick compared to others, whether they achieved their goals and how long they were actually on vacation. I was more afraid that taking too little time off than taking too much. Such cases exist in the US because they probably thought they would be at a disadvantage. But that would have been the wrong incentive for me. In such a case, I would have declared the project a failure.

That wouldn't have been legal either. In Germany, a minimum number of vacation days per year is required by law.

Yes, and we definitely don't go below that. It is still in the employment contracts of the employees. I no longer look at how much vacation they take beyond that. They are usually entitled to 25 vacation days - the three test subjects each took 30 in the past year. Nevertheless, they achieved the target figures. In addition, they were less sick than usual. And I had the feeling that they were a little more relaxed about their work than before.

How did the other employees react to the new rule?

Shortly before Christmas I wrote an email to the entire team that we will now implement this throughout the company. A few of the colleagues have already written back to me that they think this is a very good idea. In twelve months, however, they will probably find that their actual working hours have not changed that much. The only difference is that the work is better distributed over 365 days.

Image: Myhotelshop