Odd problem with unlimited leave and unlimited sick pay

Unlimited Leave

New Zealand video game developer Rocketwerkz offers prospective workers unlimited leave and unlimited sick day.

Rocketwerkz CEO Dean Hall admits there are problems with the scheme but there are also advantages.

Hall said that when the business started in September 2015 it needed a strategy to attract skilled staff away from big studios.

“You can have 30 people working on NZ$20 million or NZ$30m project so you’re putting a lot of trust in them already. If you are trusting them with big projects and large amounts of money, why can’t you trust them to manage their time as well? That’s the point we started with,” Hall told NZ Stuff.

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Hall said that people who were offered unlimited leave sometimes took less time off than those with restrictions.

To counteract that, Rocketwerkz required that all employees took at least four weeks of leave a year.

unlimited leave, rocketwertz, dean hall

Hall said the idea of unlimited leave was to stop people turning up on days when it did not make sense for them to be there.

“You come in on December 23 and there’s someone sitting at their desk and you say why are you here, why aren’t you with your family, and they say they’re saving leave up for the school holidays so they can take kids to Fiji. That’s dumb,” he said.

“People should be at work because they wanted to be, because they were working on big projects or were excited about something they were doing. Not sitting at my desk because I want to not be at my desk at some other time.”

Hall also found the unlimited leave offer problematic with the junior staff.

“For many it was their first real job and it went one of two ways. For some it worked fine but others needed structure, to be told the hours they needed to be at work,” he said.

“It can take one or two years before they start making value for the company and they need to get there by being at work and hearing what’s happening.”

Rocketwerkz, which has opened an Auckland office to add to its original office in Dunedin, settled on a three-tier system.

The first tier, for the most junior staff, offered a normal working environment with structured hours and leave.

The second tier included unlimited sick leave.

The third, for more senior staff, offered unlimited leave of all forms.

Hall said a significant number of staff would take more than four weeks’ leave a year.

“It really depends year-on-year. I don’t think you can judge someone’s work output by the amount of leave they are taking. Someone who takes a lot of leave could be getting the same amount of work done as someone who’s not.”

Hall said the leave provisions were a compelling point of difference for the company. It recruited creative people who needed to be excited to be at work, with their minds on their work.

“We pay pretty well which helps as well,” he said.

Chinese technology giant Tencent has a 25% stake in Rocketwerkz.

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