Richard Branson is giving Virgin staff unlimited holidays

By on September 25, 2014

The billionaire has announced his staff can take as much leave as they like. So what’s the catch?

Rigid, nine-to-five labour appears to be going the way of the suit and tie, or the bowler hat. Flexible working is the modern workplace mantra – it’s results that count, not hours.

Sir Richard Branson is now taking that principle one step further. In a post on the Virgin blog, he announced that employees will be able to take as many days off a year as they like, without the need to ask for prior approval and without managers keeping track.

“It is left to the employee alone,” Branson said, “To decide if and when he or she feels like taking a few hours, a day, a week, or a month off.”

Branson was inspired to take the step after his daughter told him how the practice was working so well for internet streaming service Netflix. Not one comfortable being considered uncool or behind the times, the tycoon decided to go all tech startup and give it a go.

All this must sound too good to be true for employees at Virgin’s UK and US parent companies, where the policy is being trialled (it will be encouraged at Virgin subsidiaries if it works out). But if they think it means more time off, they might be mistaken.

“The assumption”, Branson continues, is “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!”

Freeloaders need not apply, it seems. Totally flexible holiday time allows the more ambitious workers to take next to no time off, making others look bad if they take what would otherwise be a routine break. The problem is such a concern at the US software firm Evernote that it pays employees a R10 000 stipend to take a whole week off, to encourage them to relax.

Now they sound like cool bosses.

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