The boss of Virgin Group, Sir Richard Branson, is removing limits off on the amount of holidays his personal staff can take in the hope that it will boost morale, creativity and productivity.
The billionaire, worth US$4.6 billion according to Forbes Magazine, wrote on his blog that his staff of 170 in the US and the UK could “take off whenever they want for as long as they want” with immediate effect. Branson believes that by removing company’s holiday policy and by allowing staff to take breaks when they wish will yield long term profits for his business.
Staff benefiting from the new unlimited leave policy includes Branson’s personal staff, his investment staff, marketing, brand and PR teams as well as the Virgin Unite foundation.
Simple Things to Boost Employee Engagement
Branson was inspired by his daughter Holly, who read about a similar strategy introduced by American on-demand internet streaming giant Netflix, which tasted instant success on its implementation. "It is left to the employee alone to decide if and when he or she feels like taking a few hours, a day, a week or a month off," wrote the billionaire.
Virgin staff is now be permitted to take time off work without management approval or prior warning however, are expected to stay up to date with their work.
Branson in the blog which is an extract from Branson’s new book The Virgin Way, wrote: “The policy-that-isn’t permits all salaried staff to take off whenever they want for as long as they want. There is no need to ask for prior approval and neither the employees themselves nor their managers are asked or expected to keep track of their days away from the office.”
“It is left to the employee alone to decide if and when he or she feels like taking a few hours, a day, a week or a month off, the assumption being that they are only going to do it when they feel a hundred per cent comfortable that they and their team are up to date on every project and that their absence will not in any way damage the business or, for that matter, their careers!”
Such flexible policies are possible today due to the undeniable existence of advance technologies in today’s age. Branson believes that people should focus on getting their work done instead of how many hours they put to it.
“The Netflix initiative had been driven by a growing groundswell of employees asking about how their new technology-controlled time on the job (working at all kinds of hours at home and/or everywhere they receive a business text or email) could be reconciled with the company’s old-fashioned time-off policy,” he wrote.
“That is to say, if Netflix was no longer able to accurately track employees’ total time on the job, why should it apply a different and outmoded standard to their time away from it?
“The company agreed, and as its ‘Reference Guide on our Freedom and Responsibility Culture’ explains, ‘We should focus on what people get done, not on how many hours or days worked. Just as we don’t have a nine-to-five policy, we don’t need a vacation policy.’”
Branson, who started quite young as an entrepreneur at the age of 16, when he dropped out of school, said he would encourage all Virgin subsidiaries to follow the policy once it is proved to be successful.
A Flexible Collaboration
The Institute of Directors, which represents employers, said that it will be surveying its members to get their thoughts on the new policy. “Where Branson goes, people will follow,” Christian May, the Institute of Director’s head of campaigns said. “It fits with how work is changing; the old notion of 9am-5pm with three weeks off is increasingly old fashioned. We don’t expect the roll out of libertarian structures across workplaces, but it should be watched with interest.” However he cautioned that it would be a messy business for many companies to function properly “if you dont know which staff you have in tomorrow, and they all decided to take the day off”.
Flexible working hours, if not similar are already a success at some Silicon Valley giants. Google allows all of its employees to spend 20% of their working time on projects of their interest. Google founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, have said that the policy gave them some of the “most significant advances’ in the company.
In a recent interview, Page said: “If you really think about the things you need to make yourself happy, housing, security, opportunity for your kids, it’s not that hard for us to provide those things. The idea that everyone needs to work frantically to meet peoples’ needs is not true.”