Vacation Policies And Team Rules – I Don’t Believe In Either


In his new book The Virgin Way, Sir Richard Branson talks about how team members of his Virgin brands will now receive “unlimited vacation time — provided, of course, they get their work done.” You can read about Branson’s decision, and rationale, here.

I have advocated for the “no vacation” policy for a long time in the companies I’ve worked for. If people are inspired by the organization’s mission and actually want to achieve something versus feeling forced or obligated to “be productive” or “achieve max utilization” (a favorite from my consulting days), rest assured they’ll be far more satisfied and effective in their roles. And here’s the not-so-secret fact of the matter: they’ll also work more. Give people more opportunity to work less and they’ll actually work more as a result.

The same applies to teams on the playing field, only the “benefits” and “rules” are different in an athletic setting. Replace “vacation from the office” with “time off from practice.” Swap out “being at your desk at 9am” with “no drinking 24 hours before games.” Substitute “having to get approval from my boss before I fix the bug” with “having to get approval from my coach before I change the way I break the puck out.”

The biggest indicator that you have problems in your organization is that you need rules. The more specific the rules, the more likely it is that your culture and people are floundering.

As a leader, you should aspire to build a culture based on a clear mission and core values, not convoluted rules and regulations. It’s your responsibility to cultivate the deep emotional connection between your team members and the goals of the organization. If you can build that feeling of mutual respect and self-governing accountability amongst your people, you’ll be in a much better position to succeed in whatever you’re trying to accomplish.


Photo credit: “Sir Richard Branson.” Photo by Jarle Naustvik, April 29, 2010. Creative Commons license, link to photo.