By Karen Axelton

Have you read about the trend of unlimited vacation? While many small employers would probably cringe at the idea of giving their staff unlimited vacation time, this article from the Wall Street Journal suggests that it actually benefits the business owner more than the employee.

Hard to believe, but according to the Journal, when employees have the option to take as much vacation as they want, they feel so guilty about using it that they actually take less time off than the typical two weeks offered by most businesses.

Maybe that shouldn’t be surprising. Even among companies with normal vacation policies, few people take all of their allowed time off. The Journal cites stats from travel company Expedia that in 2010, just 38 percent of U.S. employees used their entire allotted vacation days.

Encouraging employees to take time off pays off for businesses in many ways. One company cited by the Journal notes that employees who never take time off are likely to make mistakes and produce lower-quality work. And for employees who work in finance or other sensitive areas, time off is often when embezzlement and other irregularities are discovered.

Netflix and Motley Fool are two well-known firms with unlimited vacation policies, which are most often found at white-collar businesses like IT and professional services providers. Unlimited vacation isn’t no-strings-attached, of course. Workers still need to coordinate with others and get the vacation time approved. A big part of the issue is making sure your duties are handled in your absence, and there’s where the guilt comes in: The thought of leaving others to handle your work makes many leery of taking time off.

So if you’re worried that unlimited vacation would hurt your business financially, the reality could be just the opposite.