Richard Branson recently announced that the approximate 170 employees on his personal staff at Virgin may take as much time off as they like.

That's right, unlimited vacation time with no one keeping track. Sound a bit radical? Branson says it's simply humane.

"Treat people as human beings, give them that flexibility, and I don't think they'll abuse it. They'll get the job done," Branson told CNN news anchor, Erin Burnett. "In America the amount of holidays people are given is dreadful," he continues. "How can you find time to get to know your children with the very little holiday time they are given in the United States?"

The vacation "non-policy" isn't exactly a new idea; one percent of companies including Netflix, Zynga, Groupon, Glassdoor, Evernote, VMware, HubSpot, Ask.com, Motley Fool, Eventbrite, ZocDoc, and SurveyMonkey all offer employees unlimited vacation time. Branson plans to encourage Virgin subsidiaries around the world to follow suit if the plan goes "as well as expected."

Something like this has the potential wreak havoc on scheduling and deadlines, don't you think? David Musyj, President and CEO at Windsor Regional Hospital in Ontario, says it does not. The hospital adopted an unlimited time off policy three years ago and management doesn't regret it for a second.

Here are some of Musyj's observations of the benefits they've seen since. Are any of them strong enough to make you consider moving your business to a vacation "non-policy"?

1. Recruit the best.

Policies on limited vacation time deny companies the opportunity to hire the best of the best. Offering talent more vacation when they are on boarded has the potential to upset long service employees. Unlimited vacation makes recruitment easier. "The look on an individual's face when they hear about the policy is priceless," Musyj says. If you're looking to bring on seasoned talent this non-policy will give you a leg up on the competition.

2. Avoid the year-end rush.

To avoid a massive vacation liability bank most companies mandate that employees take their allotted vacation time within a twelve month period. This often results in employees vying for the vacation time they've saved up for unexpected events. The unlimited time off policy takes away the need to bank days off along with all the wasted effort of having to "jockey" for vacation time. At Windsor Regional the employee's can now focus on what is important: the hospital's patients.

3. Better teamwork.

With no limits on time off employees learn to pitch in during a co-worker's absence. In the past it was seen as an obligation, but today Windsor Regional's employees view it as a collaborative effort. They know that their fellow team members will do the same for them when they want time off. "It has resulted in better teamwork," says Musyj. "These collaborative efforts have extended to day to day work activities resulting in a far greater collegial workplace."

4. Gives a big boost to morale.

When a team member at Windsor Regional Hospital leaves work early to watch their child in a sports meet, for example, they can do so without being concerned about being disciplined or using up a valuable vacation day. No more made up excuses like I have a doctor's appointment! "The energy they return to work with after being able to participate with their family is truly priceless for our patients," says Musyj.

5. Creates loyalty.

Windsor Regional's employee satisfaction rate ranges between an impressive ninety-two and ninety-four percent and their turnover rate is negligible. While unlimited time off is only a piece of the culture puzzle, a practice that has grown over 10 years, it is clearly generating strong employee loyalty. "When I started with this organization twelve years ago there was a handful of "go-to" people," says Musyj. "That list has since grown into the hundreds; there is always someone to turn to when something needs to get done."

You may be wondering about employee abuse of the policy. Musyj, who has seen no abuse of the policy, has this to say. "Our theory is if someone is abusing it, that's probably the least of your worries regarding that employee."

Published on: Oct 6, 2014