Smarter Working Is The Only Way Richard Branson’s Unlimited Holidays Will Work

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Much has been made of the recent news that Richard Branson, the boss of Virgin Group, plans to offer his personal staff the ability to take as much leave as they want, for as long as they want, as long as they get their work done.

Inspired by a similar policy at online video streaming company Netflix, he wrote that “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 unusual principle places the emphasis on what the employee has achieved, not how many hours or days they took to do it, and places the onus on the employee to work responsibly and ensure that the time they take off will not damage the business because their work is completely up to date, or covered by their team.

Let’s ignore the cynics claiming this is simply a huge PR stunt for Sir Richard, and look at how employees are meant to achieve their yearly workload and yet enjoy more time off than they have had previously.

Surprisingly the system will likely be self-policing. As I’ve mentioned before, one third of UK office workers are already failing to take their full annual leave entitlement, so offering them unlimited holidays isn’t going to affect them much.

But what if you want to take advantage of this generous offer and take more leave than you have had previously. You still need to get all your work done, in less time. How? By working smarter.

Judicious use of technology can help with smarter working, helping you to work more efficiently and get more done in less time. No matter how large or small your company there are ways you can bring technology in to help.

Email is one of the most crucial business communications tools, and staying in touch with your latest messages can be the difference between helping a colleague with a question, progressing a sales lead, or doing neither.

All modern smartphones can handle your email, but for truly smarter working, look to invest in a combined solution such as Office 365 which offers email, contact and calendar synchronisation, and even allows your colleagues granular access to any of those items so they can see your meetings or help manage your email.

Does your sales tool consist of an Excel spreadsheet, or worse a paper based system? Invest in collaborative Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tool and all your staff will be aware of the status of your clients and any work underway with them. There are web based CRM tools that also have dedicated mobile Apps for a smartphone like Salesforce and SugarCRM that will help all your staff work smarter and make your business smoother and more efficient. Both offer free trials so you can try it out risk free.

Make your staff feel part of the team, even when they’re not physically together. Instant Messaging (IM) technologies such as Skype allow for text or even video messaging, and document sharing services like One Drive (again part of Office 365) or Dropbox allow your staff to share ideas and media throughout your company.

Plantronics UK Managing Director Paul Clark said in an interview with the Guardian: “We have experienced first-hand how smarter working schemes can improve a business’ daily operations and help boost overall job satisfaction.”

If you want a work force that feels empowered and valued, and one that would sensibly manage a policy such as unlimited holiday, then make sure they have the tools to work efficiently and are able to respond quickly when something unexpected comes up.

This post was written by Rob Gordon, an IT geek, gadget lover and blogger. Rob has been using the internets since 1994 when the only streaming video was that coffee pot in Cambridge (rip).... Follow Rob on Twitter - @robgordon - about.me/robgordonuk