3 reasons why Richard Branson’s “Unlimited Holidays” aren’t as good as they appear

As much holiday as you like. Sounds good doesn’t it? As Branson sat telling the world what an amazing idea this is and how it was going to be great for his Virgin employees, I couldn’t help but wonder what I would do with as much holiday as I liked. I tour America like I’ve always wanted to, dedicate myself to learning a new language or visit friends dotted around the country. Sounds too good to be true doesn’t it? Well it is, and here’s why:

1. More or less holiday?
You’re now competing against your colleagues. Here’s one scenario you’ll start hearing more of

“Jane only took 20 days of holiday and she does the same role as you. Why have you taken 40 days this year?”

And what about interview situations?

“You’ve taken 80 days in the past 2 years but someone else has only taken 60 in the same period.”

Who do you think the company will choose?

2. Resource evaluation

“You’ve been off for 14 days to Bermuda? You can’t be that busy then! He’s a load more work.”

The problem is, there’s a real temptation for managers to start thinking in black and white about the reasons why you may go on holiday for long stretches.

3. Accountability
You’re responsible for the holiday you take in relation to the work you’ve got to do. How many of us have a job where you can take a week off without coming back and having to deal with a huge amount of urgent emails or decisions that need to be made? Business is too fast to ever be not busy.

The Real Motive
Call me a cynic, but all this is is a method for Virgin to ask “How much do you want this job?” and “What’s your resource capacity like?” whilst making them appear like they’re doing you a favour. For businesses that’s truly useful – you get hungry employees whose capacity you can begin to manage. Employees are then left with a sense of unknowing about what is actually acceptable. Like most things in business, the success of these schemes is dependent on the management of them. There are a lot of unanswered questions ie. how is a team expected to deliver on targets if half the team decide to go on holiday for 10 days? It’ll be interesting to see how Virgin deal with these problems and more in the coming months and years.

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