It's no secret that, as much as we love our work, us blueballroomers love a good holiday. As in, we really love holidays. Okay - so we can't shut up about them. So when we saw Richard Branson in the news recently, revealing how he is giving all 170 of his personal staff unlimited annual leave, our initial reaction in the office was one of admiration. But when we discussed it more deeply, we wonder whether in practice unlimited holiday would make for a happier, healthier or more engaged workforce after all. By putting the employee's holiday entirely in their own hands, I wonder whether that employee might actually feel pressure not to take holiday. With the normal set amount of annual leave, most can usually (I know there are plenty that do not!) turn off for a couple of weeks a year and spend some time away from work - you've earned that time and can rest easy knowing you've left all your work in the capable hands of your team. But if you can only take time away when you "feel 100% comfortable that you and your team are up to date on every project and that your absence will not in any way damage the business - or, for that matter, your career" - suddenly the chains attaching you to your laptop feel a little tighter.
As the Guardian points out today, in the current turbulent times is anyone really in a place to admit that they won't be missed if they disappear for a few days whenever they feel like it? If you were to take full advantage of unlimited holidays, and your team seem to manage just fine without you, it won't be long until the powers that be realise yours is a power that was.
For Branson's 170-strong "personal staff", perhaps this new policy is a welcome one. I'm sure any role working directly with Richard himself is far from 'typical' so maybe this innovative approach will be a good fit. But I think it'll be a while until larger and more general workforces can, or should, take this approach. When Virgin starts applying this policy to their air stewardesses and train drivers too - perhaps we should re-evaluate.