From Human Beings to Human Doings: Why Sir Richard Branson’s Got it Right

29th February 2016
Virgin Plane

It may sound like a line from a B movie, but it came from one of the most successful businessmen in the world. Sir Richard Branson has been opening up about his work/life philosophy, and how he believes we need to approach ours in today’s technological and ‘always-on’ culture.

Does a Relaxed Working Environment Actually Increase Productivity?

Branson is a fierce advocate of the theory that flexible working improves productivity, and it’s an idea that seems to stack up in practice elsewhere in the world.

Does your business operate a stringent and tough working policy or are you in favour of a more flexible approach?:

• Over half of us want flexible working, but flexible working opportunities have only increased by around 4 – 5% in the past year. This means a lot of people are settling for opportunities they’re not fully happy with that could impact their motivation and productivity levels

• For those putting in long hours, simply being awake for more than 20 hours has the same impact on bodily function as having 5 or 6 alcoholic drinks

• People who work 50 hours a week are three times more likely to chronically abuse alcohol than those who don’t. (And in the UK, many work well above 50 hours!)

• Alcohol misuse costs $223.5 billion every year in the US, and decreased productivity accounts for 72% of this loss – to take this further, presenteeism in a role is becoming more of an issue in the UK where people turn up for work but get very little done

It might be that a regimented working regime can do more harm than good when it comes to business productivity.

Sir Richard Raises a Point

We know Richard Branson is a fan of flexible working. We know he’s vocal about it. But he went to efforts to demonstrate to his employees how good it was too, by holding a “Corporate Day”.

Staff had to arrive at 9am, wear traditional work attire, call one another Mr and Miss, as well as avoiding social media and not making any personal phone calls for the whole day. The experiment was brilliant in that it enabled his employees to get a taste of how much of the world still operates. The result? They hated it!

Richard Branson wrote of the initiative:
“As technology advances at a rapid rate, the world is becoming more and more connected, making many people available by phone or email, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

While initiatives like flexible working are helping to reduce the stresses caused by hyper-connectivity, unfortunately burn out is still a very real thing. It’s important to prepare for the demands of the everyday, but it’s equally as crucial to enjoy life.

“Alongside the meetings, appointments and email replies, find time to be inspired, take in the beauty of the world, and laugh with your loved ones.”

What We Think
From a recruitment standpoint, given that flexible working is such a popular option for candidates, if you are struggling to recruit, making a simple change like this can be a great way to make your team more desirable. It can be challenging in practice in roles such as admin or reception when desks need to be manned, but in today’s environment surely it’s worth the consideration?

“Alongside the meetings, appointments and email replies, find time to be inspired, take in the beauty of the world, and laugh with your loved ones.”