Branson scraps leave policy in favour of free-for-all

23 September 2014 -


Netflix scheme for staff holidays and flexible working has dramatic influence on Virgin founder’s outlook, according to blog post

Matt Packer

Virgin tycoon Richard Branson has torn up his company’s policy on staff holidays, allowing its US and UK workers to make things up as they go along.

Under the new system, there are no limits on the number of days that a Virgin employee can take each year, or on the amount of consecutive days taken at one time – and workers don’t even need to seek prior approval for their departures. Significantly, managers are neither required, nor expected, to monitor their staffers’ use or deployment of annual leave.

In a blog post published today, Branson explained that he was inspired to take this dramatic course by a similar policy at large at online content juggernaut Netflix. That policy was the subject of a Telegraph article that was brought to Branson’s attention by his daughter Holly, who told him: “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.”

According to the branding chieftain, the Netflix policy “might be more accurately described as being, well, no policy! It’s a little bit like when you read that someone is offering a ‘0% interest rate’. If there’s no interest, can it really be called an interest rate?” He added: “[this] policy-that-isn’t permits all salaried staff to take off whenever they want for as long as they want. There is no need to ask for prior approval and neither the employees themselves nor their managers are asked or expected to keep track of their days away from the office.

“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 a hundred per cent 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!”

Branson noted that the Netflix initiative “had been driven by a growing groundswell of employees asking about how their new technology-controlled time on the job (working at all kinds of hours at home and/or everywhere they receive a business text or email) could be reconciled with the company’s old-fashioned time-off policy. That is to say, 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? The company agreed, and as its Reference Guide on our Freedom and Responsibility Culture explains, ‘We should focus on what people get done, not on how many hours or days worked. Just as we don’t have a nine-to-five policy, we don’t need a vacation policy.’”

He concluded: “I’m delighted to say that we have introduced this same (non-)policy at our parent company in both the UK and the US, where vacation policies can be particularly draconian. Assuming it goes as well as expected, we will encourage all our subsidiaries to follow suit, which will be incredibly exciting to watch.”

Sounds like Branson has pulled off a management makeover... find out about CMI’s views on that process.

Image of Richard Branson courtesy of s_bukley / Shutterstock.

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