THE SANTA CLARA
October 9, 2014
Sir Richard Branson, the founder of the Virgin Group, is the news once more, this time regarding an issue that could see Santa Clara students tossing sunscreen into backpacks and dusting off their passports.
In his new book “The Virgin Way,” Branson unveiled a system in which employees can take unlimited time off from work without approval whenever they please. This plan mirrors the policies of other companies like Netflix and could revolutionize the way people schedule their vacations from work.
However, before you start updating your LinkedIn profile and bombarding the Virgin Group recruiters with your resume, take into account that this new policy may not be as spectacular as it seems.
While proponents of the policy such as David Musyj, president and CEO at Windsor Regional Hospital in Ontario, which operated under the system for three years, vehemently tout its benefits, others remain hesitant.
Supporters, including Musyj, claim the plan promotes better rest and increased morale for employees, as well as heightened worker responsibility and teamwork. Others remain hesitant.
The main argument against Branson’s policy stems from the timeless adage that quality always comes before quantity. Simply put, unlimited vacations sound great in theory, but in practice it is quite possible that this policy will make the worry-free and relaxing vacations of the past anything but that.
Branson noted that unlimited vacation can only be taken “when (workers) feel 100 percent 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.”
Ideally this would not be an issue, as people in a workplace setting should be responsible enough to get their work done before jetting off to the Bahamas on Virgin Airlines (alright, so Branson’s new policy isn’t entirely selfless).
Yet, as anyone who has ever been left to do the majority of the work on a group project can attest, this is quite frequently not the case. This new policy could create a chaotic bull rush out the door of major workplaces, which can all but forget about being open for the holidays.
On the other hand, employees may be wary to take vacations whenever they see fit, fearing that their definition of giving it “100 percent” may differ greatly from the definition of their employers. It is relatively hard to enjoy a tense vacation spent worrying about job security.
This notion was recently echoed by engineer Scott Francis, who previously worked for a company that enabled unlimited vacation time. His main complaint regarding the policy, which he raised during an interview with Tracey Samuelson of Marketplace, was the unease caused by his “feeling like it was going to reflect negatively on me if I took vacation that wasn’t owed to me.”
At its best, unlimited vacation improves the overall well-being of both the workplace and workers themselves. If implemented incorrectly with irresponsible staffs and workplaces, it could descend into chaotic free-for-alls with no one showing up to work on Mondays and Fridays. For this reason, all eyes will turn to the Virgin Group and others who implement this policy.
Ultimately, if Richard Branson gives his employees free airfare along with their unlimited vacations, all I can say is this. The policy is horrible. Don’t apply to the Virgin Group, and tell all of your friends and other acquaintances not to apply either.
If I am not writing for the newspaper next quarter, it is because my application was successful and I am too busy vacationing from my new job with Virgin.
Thomas Curran-Levett is a junior political science major and the editor of the Opinion section.