LIVING

Richard Branson Institutes Unlimited Vacation At Virgin

09/25/2014 09:31 EDT
AP
Richard Branson prepares to go kite-boarding near his private resort and home, on Necker Island, British Virgin Islands, Sunday, June 8, 2008. Branson, a high school dropout who built his Virgin empire into a world brand, said he plans for his newest property, nearby Mosquito Island, to be transformed into what he touts as the most environmentally-friendly resort on the globe. (AP Photo/Todd VanSickle)

It's not often you hear about a boss who doesn't want to count his employees' vacation days.

But Virgin Group founder Richard Branson isn't like other bosses.

In an excerpt from his book "The Virgin Way" that was posted on his blog Tuesday, he said he has introduced a policy at the company's U.S. and U.K. headquarters whereby employees can decide when to take time off work.

They decide for themselves how long they'll be away and they don't need to approve it with a manager first. They don't even have to keep track of how many days they've been gone.

The only catch is that they and their teams have to be up to date on any projects, and their time away from work can't hurt the business or their own careers.

"Flexible working has revolutionized how, where and when we all do our jobs," Branson wrote. "So, if working nine to five no longer applies, then why should strict annual leave (vacation) policies?"

Netflix inspired the billionaire's move to the new policy, after the video streaming company's employees wondered how they would manage time off if they were working at all different hours.

"If Netflix was no longer able to accurately track employees' total time on the job, why should it apply a different and outmoded standard to their time away from it?" Branson wrote.

Numerous professionals have extolled the health benefits that come from vacations.

Clinical psychologist Francine Lederer, for example, told ABC News in 2011 that the effects of time off on mental health are "profound," and that those who take vacations are "more motivated to achieve their goals" when they come back to work.

Branson's policy comes about as numerous businesses and governments are experimenting with new initiatives to help their employees achieve a work-life balance.

Earlier this year, some employers in France signed an agreement with unions with an "obligation to disconnect," which meant that independent employees who work outside the country's mandated 35-hour work week would enjoy 11 hours of rest every day, Slate reported.

(Erroneous reports emerged around this time that France had banned work emails after 6 p.m.)

Meanwhile, in Amsterdam, an office occupied by design studio Heldergroen lifts desks off the ground, computers and all, at 6 p.m. every day, making room for uses such as a dance party, yoga class and numerous other applications, Co.EXIST reported.

While Branson is encouraging employees to take off as much time as they need, the new policy could be a mixed blessing.

Christian May, head of campaigns at the U.K.'s Institute of Directors, told The Guardian that businesses could have difficulty functioning "if you don't know which staff you have in tomorrow, and they all decided to take the day off."

And it's reasonable to question whether employees would even take advantage of this lenient approach to vacations.

A Glassdoor survey reported by CBS Moneywatch last April found that U.S. employees only took half their vacation time over the past year.

Reasons for not taking full advantage of time off included unease over whether someone else could do their work for them, as well as falling behind when they came back. Others worried about losing their jobs altogether.

The story is similar in Canada, where 26 per cent of residents are not making use of paid vacation days, according to a survey by Robert Half.

So it's all well and good when your boss isn't monitoring your vacation time. But are employees bold enough to accept it?

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