Get Adobe Flash player

Richard Branson on breaks: Treat People as Human Beings

Virgin founder Richard Branson gives employees unlimited vacation time

Ben Farlow, Richard Branson, Francois Thibault, George Whitesides
Bacardi Global Category Director Ben Farlow, left, Virgin Group founder Richard Branson, Grey Goose Maitre de Chai, Francois Thibault and Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides share a toast at the Grey Goose Vodka and Virgin Galactic global partnership announcement event at the Rose Center for Earth & Space on Monday, Sept. 22, 2014, in New York. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP) (Evan Agostini)

Nick Canedo | Contributing writer By Nick Canedo | Contributing writerThe Post-Standard
Email the author | Follow on Twitter
on September 24, 2014 at 12:15 PM

The 64-year-old entrepreneur explained in a blog post Tuesday why his company gives unlimited, untracked vacation time to salaried employees. In an excerpt from his book, “The Virgin Way,” Branson wrote, “Flexible working has revolutionised how, where and when we all do our jobs. So, if working nine to five no longer applies, then why should strict annual leave (vacation) policies?”

The “non-policy” only applies to salaried employees who work at Virgin’s main offices in New York, London, Geneva and Sydney, CNN reports. The assumption is that employees will only take vacation time when they’re “a hundred percent comfortable” that their absence will not damage the business, the team or their careers, Branson said.

Many have expressed their opinions about Virgin’s new policy. Reader Zac Young commented on Branson’s blog post and praised the billionaire for “leading the way for Generation Y.” But Andrea Gerhardt, who says she works as cabin crew for Virgin Australia, noted that the policy doesn’t extend to her. “A huge majority of staff go years without getting any of their requested leave,” she wrote.

A similar policy at Netflix inspired Branson after his daughter emailed him a 2010 story from the Daily Telegraph. “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 recalled his daughter writing him in the email.

Netflix’s salaried employees can use vacation time whenever they desire for as long as they want, as long as they inform their managers and assure their work is covered, the Telegraph reports.

While Virgin hopes to increase productivity and attract talent with the policy, Lotte Bailyn, a professor emeritus at the MIT Sloan School of Management, told The Huffington Post that the lack of structure might lead to workers feeling less comfortable with using vacation time. “This sounds not well thought-out,” Bailyn said. “People take less time off because they feel they’re not sure if this is really a commitment to them or that this is more a PR thing.”

Bailyn thinks employees will initially be hesitant to go on vacation and will look to senior staff to send the standard for how much time off is appropriate. “Typically, without any guidelines or structures, people don’t quite know what to make of this,” Bailyn said. “They tend to fall back on expectations they have formed in previous terms.”

But Branson expects only positive outcomes out of the new policy. He told CNN, “Treat people as human beings, give them that flexibility and I don’t think they’ll abuse it. And they’ll get the job done.”


Here is a video on Richard Branson about his thoughts about entrepreneurship, family, having fun and his philosophy.