Richard Branson announces unlimited vacation time for Virgin staff

How good for our morale and wellbeing is a holiday? Extremely good (as we already know!)

In his new book The Virgin Way, Richard Branson makes what many would consider is a pretty startling revelation.

The billionaire reveals that staff at both his UK and US operations will now be entitled to unlimited holiday time – but only if they get their work done and being out of the office won’t negatively affect their career or the company in any way.

If this sounds too good to be true, Branson is not the first to introduce this policy.  He said he was inspired by the video company Netflix which allowed salaried employees to take time off whenever they wanted, without prior approval or their hours being clocked.

The US is “ahead” of the UK when it comes to this sort of flexible holiday policy, but what it does prove is something psychologists and doctors are adamant about – holidays are good for us!  Not just for the body, but for our minds.  And never have they been important than now, in our “always on” society – glued to emails, surgically attached to our smartphones and dipping in and out of Twitter, Facebook and Instagram (far too?) frequently.

America’s intense work ethic means too many Americans are missing vacation time or using it to catch up on “life” or work, ironically, and some of us in the UK are not far behind – not a good thing!

In numerous timeshare surveys during the recent recession, holidays were the one thing families would not give up – even if it meant taking a staycation instead of flying abroard.

Branson’s move shows that ultimately, success lies in how well a project is completed – not how many hours have been clocked by employees.

He noted that employees will only take off “when they feel one hundred percent 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.”

The Virgin holiday policy has already been used to Foursquare and Tumblr, but what’s interesting is that in reality many say that holiday time increases very little, even with the more flexible rules.

It’s also something that for obvious reasons would work better when employees partake in profit sharing or earn bonuses, rather than clocking in and out every day, shuffling papers at their desks.

Always the pioneer, Branson says he hopes the policy will be a boon to morale, creativity and productivity at the Virgin group.

“Assuming it goes as well as expected,” he writes, “we will encourage all our subsidiaries to follow suit, which will be incredibly exciting to watch.”

Not surprisingly, perhaps, he also supports carpooling and has invested in a carpooling company in San Francisco – and he writes his own blog and says he reads all the comments:

“If it wasn’t really me writing on LinkedIn or posting my virgin.com blogs, people would spot it a mile off.”

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