Friday, November 7, 2014

Virgin's unlimited holidays

We are constantly discussing flexible workplaces, engaging the next generation of workers, hot desking, having people work from home and it seems that Richard Branson has gumpzed us all by announcing that his staff can have unlimited holidays.
The Virgin staff in the US and UK head office will receive unlimited leave on the proviso their work is up to date. The focus, Branson states, is on getting the work done rather than the 8am-5pm hours.

An interesting paradigm shift for employers and employees.
Employees are being held accountable on the fact that when they take their leave their work is 100% up to date and that everyone is across what they are responsible for and their time away will not in any way damage the business or their careers.

The idea is to create workplaces that boost morale and drive productivity. Virgin is not the first business to head down this path.
The positives are clear, employees, you would assume, will be less stressed because they are taking regular breaks which then impacts positively on their productivity and the bottom line.

As employers we don’t have to set times for annual leave or pay out those who choose to leave. I would also assume that long service leave would no longer be applicable.
The key positive impact is from a recruitment perspective. You would assume that this would be attractive to potential employees when assessing who or which brand they want to work for.

It seems that by allowing employees to take unlimited breaks what we are testing here is the trust we have in each other and whether unlimited leave actually does equate to productive motivated team members.
The jury is still out on this I feel.

The reality is that yes we are much more productive before we go on leave. While on leave however almost all of us check emails so we don’t return to an overflowing in box.
If you work in a team environment and take regular breaks it means that someone is constantly having to pick up your work. No different to what happens when you take your required leave now however it is only for a fixed period of time.

If you are given the choice of unlimited leave, how often will you actually go? And given Branson’s criteria – you will not damage the business or your career, you would perhaps not actually take any extra leave.
We have held onto the traditional 4 week leave for far too many years in my opinion. With the use of technology and access we have to each other across the globe I believe it is time for business to reassess leave entitlements.

If we didn’t want to be as extreme as Branson, however still make changes and attract people into our businesses or sectors, perhaps consider

·        6 – 8 weeks leave vs 4 weeks

·        1 week leave to work for a not for profit

·        The day off on your birthday

·        The day off on your child’s birthday

·        The day off on your spouse’s significant birthday or event

·        Flexible work days

·        Ability to work from home

Annual leave is something we can change per business or group or industry.
If we all agree that employees who are less stressed and tired are far more productive, that the traditional 4 weeks leave needs to be changed, then as employers we each have the ability to change the landscape on this and perhaps attract and retain the best people in the process.


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