If the 9-to-5 workweek is a paradigm of the past, then why do so many businesses still cling to outdated vacation policies? That is the question posed by Richard Branson in an excerpt from his new book, The Virgin Way, where the billionaire announces that staffers at Virgin’s U.S. and United Kingdom headquarters will now receive unlimited vacation time -- provided, of course, that they get their work done.
The practice is not a new one. Branson says he was inspired to adapt unlimited vacations after hearing of a similar policy at Netflix, which, in 2010, allowed salaried employees to take time off whenever they wanted, without prior approval and without their hours being tracked.
While technology has made remote work a cinch and has also made certain staffers reachable around the clock, Branson concluded that, at the end of the day, completed work was a healthier focus than the number of hours clocked.
But the critical assumption behind the policy, Branson notes, is that employees will only take off “when they feel one hundred percent 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.”
An unlimited vacation policy, which has been adapted by other notable startups like Foursquare and Tumblr, can have both positive and negative ramifications, experts say. While some managers fear that such programs tempt a catastrophic free-for-all, others have found that vacation time actually increases very little upon institution.
Branson, for his part, hopes the policy will be a boon to morale, creativity and productivity at Virgin’s parent companies. “Assuming it goes as well as expected,” he writes, “we will encourage all our subsidiaries to follow suit, which will be incredibly exciting to watch.”
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