He may be a billionaire with enough money to last a million lifetimes, but Richard Branson firmly believes in a flexible work-life balance. In fact, he believes employees should be able to take time off work whenever they fancy an afternoon on the beach, stroll in the park, or just a little bit of “chillaxation.”
Before all you critics snarl and throw shade on rich Richard, Branson is not just talking the talk, he’s walking the walk. The billionaire philanthropist has already initiated a policy in Virgin offices within both the U.S. and the UK whereby staff can take as much holiday as they want. And the good news is, if the brave new scheme is a success, the billionaire boss will encourage all of his company’s subsidiaries to follow suit and stop obsessively counting holiday leave.
Bravo Branson! Talk about being employed in a workplace which boasts all of the carrot and none of the stick. You can almost predict a rush of job applications to the Virgin HQ.
From what fantastical realms did Sir knight find such a forward thinking policy? Well, from a Daily Telegraph article on the working practices already being put into place by Netflix, that’s where.
In his blog under the headline, ““Why we’re letting Virgin staff take as much holiday as they want,” Branson posts an excerpt from his new book The Virgin Way: Everything I Know About Leadership, which explains his attitude towards flexible holiday practices.
“The Telegraph article talked about the new vacation policy that has been adopted by Netflix, which might actually be more accurately described as being, well, no policy! It’s a little bit like when you read that someone is offering a ‘zero per cent interest rate’. If there’s no interest can it really be called an interest rate?
“Anyway, simply stated, 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!”
Branson said he became more than a little interested and instantly intrigued by the possibility of introducing such a practice within his own company after his daughter told him, “I have a friend whose company has done the same thing and they’ve apparently experienced a marked upward spike in everything –- morale, creativity, and productivity have all gone through the roof.”
Branson goes on to note how often the adjectives “smart” and “simple” describe the cleverest of innovations before backing the new scheme with all the bombast of a certified billionaire.
“This is surely one of the simplest and smartest initiatives I have heard of in a long time and I’m delighted to say that we have introduced this same (non) policy at our parent company in both the UK and the US, where vacation policies can be particularly draconian. Assuming it goes as well as expected, we will encourage all our subsidiaries to follow suit, which will be incredibly exciting to watch.”
Branson is the latest in a handful of billionaires who have stressed the importance of a flexible work-life balance. In an interview posted on YouTube, Google co-founder Larry Page explains his thoughts on modern capitalism.
“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.”
What do you think? Are we all setting sail into a brave new world in terms of working practices, or is it all just a billionaire’s pipe dream, or should that be smoke screen?