Virgin Group boss, Sir Richard Branson, is offering his personal staff as much holiday as they want. On his website, he said that his 170 staff members may take time off whenever they want, for as long as they want. The staff benefiting from this new scheme includes; those working in Branson’s family office, his investment team, marketing, brand and PR teams and the Virgin Unite foundation.
Mr. Branson said his daughter, who read about a similar plan at the online TV firm Netflix, inspired him. He said: “We should focus on what people get done, it is irrelevant how many hours or days people work. 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 100% comfortable that they and their team are up to date on every project.” He added that he has introduced the policy in the UK and the US “where vacation policies can be particularly draconian”. Mr. Branson added: “Assuming it goes as well as expected, we will encourage all our subsidiaries to follow suit, which will be incredibly exciting to watch.” Virgin Group employs more than 50,000 people around the world and operates in over 50 countries.
The Institute of Directors, the representative for employers, said it was considering conducting a survey to measure reactions to Branson’s new policy. Christian May, the IoD’s head of campaigns, said: “It fits with how work is changing; the old notion of 9am-5pm with three weeks off is increasingly old fashioned. It is unexpected to be a roll out of libertarian structures across workplaces, however, it should be watched with interest.”
More flexible working hours are already popular at Silicon Valley technology companies. Google allows employees to spend 20 percent of their working time on projects not directly related to their normal job. Google’s founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, have claimed that the policy led to some of the company’s “most significant advances”. Gmail, Google Transit, Google Talk and Google News are all said to have been generated by Google engineers during so-called ’20 percent time’.
From 30 June 2014, all employees have the legal right to request flexible working hours. Employers have to deal with requests in a reasonable manner by assessing the key points of the application, holding a meeting to discuss the request with the employee and then offering an appeal process.
According to research by global workspace provider Regus, nine out of ten respondents say that offering flexible working arrangements is an effective way of improving employee morale and helping staff to achieve a better work-life balance. Its research, which surveyed more than 2,200 business owners and senior managers, also found that 81 percent of respondents see flexible working as a way of improving productivity; which is up from the 74 percent that said the same in 2013.
The research also found that more than two-thirds (67%) of respondents also regard flexible working hours as a way of saving money, stating that it is lower cost than fixed-office working hours. A further 49 percent of respondents believe that offering flexible working hours gives organisations a recruitment advantage, with 68 percent citing that prospective employees increasingly demand it.
John Spencer, chief executive officer at Regus, said: “The recent regulatory changes give all staff the legal right to request flexible working and the results of our latest research serve as a timely reminder of the wide-ranging benefits of this modern approach to work. Having a choice in where, when and how we work makes a huge difference to our overall happiness; it helps us decrease the issues of a long commute, frees up time to cook and eat healthily, or simply helps us get home earlier.”
In which ways might this approach increase Virgin’s morale, creativity and productivity?