Billionaire Branson Grants Unlimited Holidays

This past week, headline-maker Richard Branson once again graced business news sites everywhere with his unleashing of unlimited holidays. Virgin employees are now granted undocumented, uncounted, and unlimited vacation days. It was all triggered by Branson’s daughter Holly, stating her friend’s company “experienced a marked upward spike in everything – morale, creativity and productivity” after adopting a have-your-own-holidays buffet.

Virgin’s policies are modeled after those of Netflix: a place where employees are wholly responsible for their vacation time and no one is officially tracking holidays. (Except, maybe, the co-worker beside you who’s noticed that you’ve taken much more time off than they have.) There is one pre-requisite for vacationing: you can’t leave behind a laundry list of to-do’s for others on your team and your work must be completed before you jet-set off. However, “completed work” is a fairly subjective standard to qualify someone for “I need a day/week/month off to snooze under a palm tree in the Bahamas.”

Unlimited holidays is certainly a great measure of trustworthiness in the workplace. Employers are placing the company’s success and reputation in their employee’s hands; some will be responsible and take appropriate holidays, but will everyone? Leaders must put (absolute) faith in their employee’s honesty and judgment calls.

On the other hand, holidays are no longer what they used to be. Technology follows us wherever we may go and we can easily work from our smartphones or tablets at a beach-side tiki hut in a tropical destination. Vacay days no longer necessarily mean leaving all work behind but perhaps bringing work alongside us in our pockets or our purses. (The question is whether we want to or not…)

Valid points have been made about Branson’s ground-breaking adoption of this policy. Who says 40 hour weeks is the “right” or “wrong” way to work? Are alternative methods successful and can they truly promote other things like morale, creativity, and engagement? Or are free-for-all holidays an open invitation to slackers and disproportionate work between employees?

What are your thoughts on this? Use #smavvythoughts on Twitter to be part of the conversation!