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The reaction to Richard Branson’s announcement on unlimited holidays for Virgin staff has perhaps revealed more about the culture of the organisations which people work for than they intended.
The reaction to Richard Branson’s announcement on unlimited holidays for Virgin staff has perhaps revealed more about the culture of the organisations which people work for than they intended. The idea behind the proposal is simple; employees are free to take holiday as and when they want.
According to Richard Branson’s announcement there will be no tracking of holiday time and no need to ask for prior permission to take leave but that staff “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!”
The idea of unlimited holidays is not a new one and the Virgin announcement cites Netflix as the inspiration for the new policy, in particular the Netflix guide which states that “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.”
Some commentators have hailed the unlimited holiday policy as a fresh example of a new and grown up contract between employer and employee; a recognition that it is the task which is important not the hours and that if we are looking to move towards a freer more entrepreneurial way of working then we have to change to a freer, more grown up relationship within the business. On the other hand, others have focused on the charge that leave should only be taken when the task is up to date. In a pressured environment with a long hours culture in which employees are working beyond the max, a flexible leave policy will soon equate to no leave.
Netflix, Virgin and others like them are leading the way towards an entirely new way of working. They can afford to make headline offers like this because their culture allows them to; because employees are seen as valued partners in the business rather than as a cost. What’s the coffee machine reaction in your business to the Virgin offer? It might tell you more than you expect about how your underlying culture and employee engagement aspirations are really working in practice.