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Employee Wellbeing

Richard Branson on Healthy Leadership and Organizational Well-Being

Photos: Courtesy of Owen Billcliffe

The founder of Virgin Group, which has control over some 400 subsidiary companies, weighs in on the importance of corporate well-being resources.

Are there any initiatives or upcoming trends in employee health and wellness that you personally support?

First and foremost, I believe in flexible working. It is important that employers appreciate their employees’ work-life balance and give them the flexibility to work around their personal lives. We have embraced flexible working since 2013 and allowed our people to work from home or remotely and stagger their working hours if they wish to. We trust our employees to work wherever and whenever they like as long as they get their work done on time and at a high quality level; other Virgin companies may decide to follow this model in the future.

I also support unlimited leave. In my book, I wrote about how we were introducing an unlimited vacation policy, which is currently applicable to the 170 people at Virgin’s headquarters, Virgin Management and our not-for-profit foundation, Virgin Unite. This allows our people to take as much vacation time as they feel they need each year, as long as they take a minimum amount of vacation to ensure they are getting time to rest and recharge. This gives our staff the flexibility to take more vacation time than previously possible, like during a special year when somebody gets married.

As an employer, why do you stress work-life balance for your employees?

Too many companies are too keen to put multitudes of rules and regulations on their staff. Not only does this stifle flexibility, but it suggests a lack of confidence in your team to do their jobs as efficiently and effectively as possible. Give your people freedom to be independent, and your business will reap the rewards. I truly believe that if you take care of your employees, they will take care of your business.

We run a range of schemes to help staff keep healthy – fresh fruit is available on a daily basis, a flexible working policy and staff can also take part in our Virgin Pulse program which monitors their exercise levels throughout the day.

Last year we introduced the unlimited leave for all staff at our head offices, Virgin Management, and our foundation, Virgin Unite; Flexible working has revolutionized how, where and when we all do our jobs. If working nine to five no longer applies, then neither should strict annual vacation policies.

Ultimately, it’s all down to our people and putting trust in them — they are the ones who make me want to come to work every day, and they are the ones who will continue to make Virgin a trusted and successful brand.

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