Sir Richard Branson, founder of the multinational Virgin Group, has decided to give his employees as much vacation time as they want. His inspiration? Netflix, which did away with scheduled vacation days in favor of giving its workers all the downtime they need.
“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,” Branson wrote on Virgin’s corporate blog, “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.”
Branson and his executives will roll out their version of the initiative to Virgin’s parent company in the United States and the U.K.; depending on how that goes, they could expand it to subsidiaries at some future point.
Netflix and Virgin aren’t the only companies experimenting with unlimited vacation time: tech firms such as Zynga and Evernote have offered the perk for years. But not all employees greet such policies with enthusiasm. On Glassdoor and other forums, more than a few have complained that ultra-flexible schedules can guilt-trip employees into taking even less vacation, lest they be seen as “slacking” in comparison to their colleagues.
And despite the tantalizing prospect of limitless vacation, many of those enrolled in such programs find that tight deadlines and demanding production schedules mean they take roughly the same amount of days off as when their paid time off was metered out.
From an employer perspective, unlimited time off for employees can translate into tangible benefits, provided those employees actually leave the office: Exhausted workers are less productive and more prone to illness. With that in mind, many startups now insist that employees use their vacation days—even if those vacation days are limited to 10 or 14 per year.
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