It’s the future. Or so some organisations, including Netflix and Virgin, seem to be saying. For many business owners, the idea of lifting the cap on staff vacation time might seem alarming, yet this could well be the best decision they ever make.
So this week Richard Branson announced that he would allow employees to take as many days off per year as they like. Currently, the offer is limited to certain brands within the Virgin behemoth. But, if successful, the deal will be extended to everyone in the monolithic company. The idea, apparently, comes direct from the boss’ daughter, who read a story on how Netflix was doing the same thing. In a world wherein the public are becoming more concerned about the welfare of those responsible for building the products and providing the services they buy, clearly this is a great PR move.
What’s better than a company that truly gives something back to those on the payroll in return for loyalty, hard work and commitment? Yet this bold gesture goes well beyond merely winning over new customers. Giving greater flexibility to workers is often extremely beneficial to companies.
Granted, we’re not quite at the point wunderkind economist of the 1930s, John Maynard Keynes, predicted we would be within a century- a place where technological advancements allow people to dedicate just 15 hours per week to their professional lives. In fact, far from it, with more hours spent in the office than at any point in history. Yet successive studies have suggested that adopting a four day working week would actually improve productivity.
Professor John Aston, one of the UK’s leading healthcare professionals, certainly agrees. Citing reduced stress levels, increased family quality time, and even a lower rate of unemployment, it seems there are plenty of merits worthy of note. The truth remains hard to ignore, though, with the majority of firms either incapable or uninterested in taking the plunge. Which is understandable. Given the hyper-competitive nature of all industries, lowering opening hours from 40 to 32 (based on an eight hour day), could spell trouble. However, allowing staff more flexibility as to when they come in, when they can take leave, and even the option of a full scale sabbatical is a good thing.
Not least for morale. Public relations has long struggled in this area due to the ‘always on’ mantra, which is even more prominent in the digital age. We’re expected to keep the phone by our sides at all times, and be ready to respond at any given moment. The so-called female-drain, which sees many women leave the game once a family comes along due to the inability to balance responsibilities has always depressed me, and it’s good to see the CIPR taking steps to make it easier for ladies to come back to this frantic line of work after they have children.
It’s ideas such as this that help show those in charge trust and respect their most valuable assets- a strong, highly skilled team. By compromising when it comes to expectations as to how a business is run, but not productivity, a business becomes a two way street, or family- something people genuinely want to be part of. Needless to say, any changes of this kind need to be micro-managed to the nth degree- measuring the impact on performance is the only way to make it work for all parties involved. Still, though, it’s certainly food for thought.