career

The woman who's given everyone in her company unlimited holidays.

Let’s play ‘Imagine if…’

Imagine if your job offered you unlimited annual leave. As much holiday as you could possibly handle.

Imagine if your boss let you manage yourself, set your own targets, gauge your own success.

Imagine if you worked full time but were only required in the office two days a week, and the others you could work from absolutely anywhere, including, but not limited to, the office.

If you work at Amantha Imber’s company, you don’t have to imagine – this is your working life.

Listen to Amantha talk about the absolutely best thing she ever did for herself as a working mother on the I Don’t Know How She Does It podcast: 

Amantha founded a company called Inventium. It’s an innovation consultancy, which sounds like a made-up thing but is actually just the name for a firm who helps companies – some big ones, like Google, in Amantha’s case – think of new ways to do things.

The mother-of-one started her business with the same kind of staff contracts that we all have – one that says you’ll work a 38-hour week, and get four weeks leave per year. In reality, you probably work a lot more. Maybe you love your job. Maybe you don’t think you could get the work done to the standard you’d like to in that time. Maybe you’re overrun, or working on a big project. As Amantha says – you’ll go hard, put in all the overtime, but there won’t be any reward for you.

“There’s this huge discrepancy that we’re capping leave but we’re not capping hours. That sounds really unjust… At the same time, I’d seen a lot of these big tech companies like Linkedin and Netflix give unlimited leave and it made sense.”

And so Amantha brought in what she calls Rebalanced Leave. Her employees get the standard four weeks. And then they get how ever much more they want, too, fully-paid, unlimited, to “rebalance”.

Amantha Imber in her creative workplace. Image supplied.
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If you're thinking that people must take the piss out of this clause, and constantly be heading off for six-month long holidays, think again. "It all comes down to trust. I inherently trust my team to do what's right for themselves and their teams both within and outside the company. We are obsessive about recruitment [to get the right people].

"I don't think it would work everywhere. It wouldn't work  somewhere where there's paranoia or politics at play."

These days, Amantha works four days a week at her own company, and spends one at home with Frankie, who's two. When she's with her little girl, Amantha keeps the laptop on lockdown, and tries to focus on one thing at a time, which, let's face it, is pretty innovative in itself.

She also says that she and her husband will not be having another baby. "We're one and done. One child is a nice balance between having children and not having children."

I talk to women about their work all the time on I Don't Know How She Does It. What they do, how they do it, how they manage to do anything else around it, like, um, raise children, or keep a relationship.

Amantha is one of the few women I've interviewed who's pointed out something obvious about the way women like to work. It's not all about the nanny or the flexitime, it's about CONTROL.

Watch: Want to be successful at work? These are the traits you need. Post continues below. 

What makes all the difference in whether your work-life "balance" is a real thing or in shattered particles across the floor is how much say you have in how your day runs.

At Inventium, staff have to be in the office on Mondays and Fridays. On those days, they have meetings and any gatherings needed for project-planning. After that, they can work wherever. And she scrapped managers. The company sets goals, plans projects, and lets everyone run their own race.

"One of the things that's really important - particularly for women - is that sense of autonomy and control over what you do and how you work," she says. "If you're in a workplace where your manager is insisting you're in the office these hours and can only take leave at these times, it can become incredibly demanding.

"There are so many assumptions that companies have and no-one ever stops to think is that best for people? Is that best for parents?"

Listen to the full episode here and subscribe to the I Don't Know How She Does It podcast in iTunes or on the Mamamia Podcast app.  

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