Time off work is something we all value. According to some researchers the global COVID pandemic made us all think harder about work-life integration. Not least a major shift towards hybrid and remote working. Doing away with the daily commute, and gaining back the time, made many of us much happier with our lot in life. Plus of course there’s the saving in costs.

There’s no doubt in our mind that a positive approach to time off work can be a big element in an organisation’s employer brand and value proposition. So what have Chiumento done?

Annual leave

There was a time when four weeks’ annual leave was pretty much the norm. Now 25 days is more like the benchmark.

For a small business its really hard to offer some of the benefits associated with being part of a big corporate. So we decided to make holidays a big differentiator. Everyone at Chiumento gets six weeks’ annual leave. Its something we pitched to our team during the pandemic and it was taken up with great enthusiasm.

Our annual leave policy has always been clear: we expect our people to take their holidays. We feel they need the time to re-charge their batteries, take care of relationships and build memories with friends and family. So we don’t offer the option of taking cash in lieu. Nor do we support people to carry over holiday between leave years. Instead we proactively manage the leave system to ensure people get their time off.

Getting time off work when you need it

We didn’t just change how much leave you get, we also changed how you get it. People don’t need a line manager to approve their holidays – they just need to collaborate with colleagues to ensure holiday plans work for everyone. Including our clients and delegates. We’ve found it far better to let teams organise things than exert management control. If you trust your people, you let go.

Flexi-time – well sort of…

Often when you need time off work you don’t need a whole day or even a half day. You might just need to finish early or have an extended lunch break. Or maybe, if you are part-time, you need to move your working pattern around a bit.

Our approach is that people don’t need to ask permission to do this. All they need to do is communicate what they are doing. We’ve discovered people really value this flexibility. As a result they don’t abuse the process. Again it is about trust. No clocking in or out. Or monitoring when people login or logout of their computer.


Since we have become a fully remote working business we have seen sickness rates drop significantly. No more catching germs on the bus or train or in crowded offices is probably part of it. Knowing your sofa is near your desk probably helps too. There’s something about battling on at home compared to fighting your way to a traditional office. Plus you don’t share your germs!

When things are tough…

Life can sometimes be cruel. Serious illness, bereavements, caring responsibilities and many other curve balls come along. We don’t expect our people to use annual leave to cover life’s crises.

Life events affect people differently. Losing a parent may affect one person deeply. In another case the desire may be to get back to work and normality quickly. We did away with having set amounts of compassionate leave etc and instead gave line managers the power to support their people depending on circumstance. Very long term absences need to be reported to the Board. Not for us to give permission for leave to continue, but so we can think about other ways we can support our people.

The pay back

We are certain that the way we deal with time off work is a big factor in retaining staff. It also helped us win an Investors in People Employer oif the Year award in 2020. It helps us with hiring too. Virtually every candidate we speak to is says “do you really give six weeks’ holiday?”

In summary

The way you deal with time off work can really differentiate you in the jobs market. Today so many people complain of being time poor. Creating an offer that gives people the time they need can be a big incentive.

Theory X – that people are basically lazy and need constant monitoring and supervison – can lead to inflexible rules and over-engineered processes. Our experience shows that letting teams organise time off, rather than managers, results in less problems rather than more. It also creates employment relationships based on trust.

Treat time off as a gift – not as an inconvenience to be managed. We think you’ll see the benefits. If you’d like to talk about our experience in using time off work as a key feature of employer brand then get in touch.

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