September 26, 2014
You may have heard (it’s all over the news and the web) that Richard Branson has announced a new “non-policy” policy. Among other things, he’s granting unlimited vacation to all of his salaried employees. Here’s an excerpt from the original article:
“…the policy-that-isn’t permits all salaried staff to take off whenever they want for as long as they want. There is no need to ask for prior approval and neither the employees themselves nor their managers are asked or expected to keep track of their days away from the office. 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, 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 – or, for that matter, their careers!”
He’s not the first to do this, but he’s the first to make international news doing it. Netflix was his inspiration, but even they weren’t the first.
I’m reading a book right now written by Chuck Blakeman titled, “Why Employees Are Always a Bad Idea.” In it, he writes about the new, postindustrial, Participation Age of employment where employees are called stakeholders or team members, and they’re treated like adults instead of mindless extensions of machines.
Many companies that have embraced this idea also have an unlimited vacation policy (which also includes sick time) and some of them have been doing it for decades!
This concept is so foreign to most American’s that our first question is, “What’s the catch?” We’re so cynical…
For companies that implement this correctly and that have the right company culture, there is no catch (although you do need to be a salaried employee to qualify).
These companies do it because they want to bring humanity back to employment. By freeing their team members from the shackles of their job, they increase loyalty, creativity and productivity. But there is a trick to it…
In order for this to work effectively, your company has to have clearly defined expectations, deliverables and accountability for results. If your company culture values hours worked over work produced, it’s going to be a rough transition.
This type of work arrangement isn’t suitable for every employee, either. If there IS a catch to unlimited vacation, it’s that employees who abuse it won’t last long because at the core of this non-policy is getting your job done. If you don’t produce, your team won’t put up with you for very long.
I believe in this Participation Age philosophy so much that I’m building OnlineStir to embrace it fully and from the ground up.
At the moment, we’re a 100% virtual company and it’s my intent to keep it that way. This allows me to employ the best talent, wherever they live around the world. It also allows my team members to travel more and work wherever they want to.
Being virtual also offers more personal freedom to our team members. Too many people waste too much of their life commuting to an office when they could do every aspect of their job at home or a coffee shop or the neighborhood library. By freeing up that drive time, they have more time to spend with their families and engage in other life-enriching activities.
We don’t keep track of hours worked or when they’re worked, either. Instead, individual and team effectiveness is based on productivity, such as meeting deadlines and sales goals.
Teams also have the right to vote off other team members, Survivor-style. If a team member is abusing the system or not contributing their share, it’s the team leader’s responsibility to handle the situation. That means first having a talk with the team member about expectations and if that doesn’t work, finding a replacement.
At the moment, OnlineStir only has one team and I’m the team leader. That means I’m responsible for making sure everyone is contributing and effective.
However, my short-term goal is to pass that responsibility off to someone else so I can focus on growing and expanding the business.
My long-term goal is to have dozens of teams so I can free as many people as possible from the prison of employment while delivering inspired results to our customers. That plan is in motion and my first team is proof that it’s possible.
Oh, and did I mention we also offer unlimited vacation? Welcome to the new age of employment!