Virgin's Richard Branson has announced that he is offering his personal staff as much holiday as they want. In a statement on his website, the billionaire entrepreneur said his team of 170 people in the UK and US would be allowed "to take off whenever they want for as long as they want. There is no need to ask for prior approval and neither the employees themselves nor their managers are asked or expected to keep track of their days away from the office".
It sounds like a frankly inspired plan to us (one-way ticket to Rio, anyone?). We've taken a closer look at other enterprising UK companies who are pushing the boundaries of a traditional work-based hierarchy and nurturing their employees with incredible job benefits. From flexi working hours to an indoor helter skelter, free breakfasts and an "anti-stress" office beagle, come see the firms with the most enticing job perks:
Richard Branson (pictured here with Virgin Atlantic staff in 2003) is offering his personal staff unlimited holiday leave, saying he was inspired by a similar policy run by TV streaming company Netflix. "Flexible working has revolutionised how, where and when we all do our jobs," he said. "So, if working nine to five no longer applies, then why should strict annual leave policies?" He said it would be up to his employees to ensure their absence did not damage the company in any way. The perk will be offered to his staff in the UK and US - "where vacation policies can be particularly draconian" - first, with the option to roll it out elsewhere if it's successful. Sheffield-based software firm WANdisco runs a similar unlimited holiday scheme, as well as boasting an in-office helter skelter.
Work at any time
London media agency the7stars also offers an unlimited holiday scheme but beyond that, it lets employees work at whatever time of day they want to, whether they're night owls or early morning bees. The company provides its workers with laptops to "roam with" and work outside the office if they prefer. Free gym membership, breakfast every day and fruit throughout the day also count among its perks. "We believe in people ahead of process and have banned all bureaucracy and cumbersome, unnecessary paperwork," a spokesperson told The Sunday Times, who voted it the third best company to work for in the UK this year.
An office pub
Staff at Southhampton IT company Peer1 benefit from one of the coolest offices ever seen - in fact, it's more like an adult playground than a working space. First there's the office pub - The Sherlock Arms - named after the company's founder, Gary Sherlock. There's also an indoor garden complete with a 15ft tree, picnic benches and a tree house where staff can escape for some down time. A swing, a giant helter skelter, a pool table and two flats to host overseas guests also count among its perks. "We are trusting," says the company's managing director Dominic Monkhouse. "Everyone is a peer rather than a parent and child relationship. But while mucking around on a slide may seem like skiving off, the company believes it actually boosts productivity. People tend to go through highs and lows throughout the day, but if you do something different for a few minutes, your performance goes up."
Need to de-stress during the working day? Communications agency Battenhall and B2B PR agency TopLine Communications are just two companies that offer a massage allowance to employees, with regular access to therapists and a relaxing range of treatments. Battenhall also runs a 20% policy, whereby one in five hours of each employee's time is spent on experimenting and innovation (each person has their own tech fund to spend on this), and flexi and remote working is offered "to empower our staff to work in whatever way is most effective for them".
Brighton-based social media company Propellernet has its own motivational scheme, Dream Balls, whereby employees enter their handwritten wishes into an old-fashioned sweet dispenser. Every time the business hits a big target, someone's dream in the 42-strong team is picked to come true. So far, the company has helped fund a trip for two employees to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. "Our whole ethos, our whole reason for being, is enjoying the workplace," said Nikki Gatenby. "We fundamentally believe that if you help people achieve their dreams, you will definitely win their hearts and minds. On top of receiving a bonus when we reached a target, we wanted to actually make people’s dreams come true."
An office beagle
eCommerce company eWAY, based in Edinbugh, says it offices "are among the friendliest in the world". It has a pool table, a beer fridge, a staff-powered playlist and best of all, an office beagle. Harper Beagle "the anti-stress and distraction manager" tours the office "with a diverse portfolio of digging, barking and tail-wagging". The firm says it wants to foster teamwork and creativity with its series of attractive perks.
Company kayaks and a barge
Worcester tech firm Postcode Anywhere makes the most of its riverside location with a company barge and kayaks that staff can use during their downtime. It also gives its team free breakfast and lunch every day of the week and free gym membership. "We’ve always made a conscious effort to ensure that Postcode Anywhere is the sort of place where people wake up and look forward to going to work each and everyday (yes even on a Monday morning!)," the company, which is regularly voted the best place in the UK to work, says.
On-site postal service and beauty treatments
Little wonder kitchen-appliance retailer a0.com has been ranked among The Sunday Times' top 100 companies to work for in the UK. The Bolton-based firm offers its staff free snacks in the form of chocolate, crisps, fruit and drink, childcare vouchers, two paid days of community work a year, corporate gym membership and subsidies on social activities that four or more employees want to do - such as scuba diving or guitar lessons. The company also has a team dedicated to hosting free and extravagant staff events, such as huge summer barbecues. And best of all (in our opinion), it has an on-site postal service and beauty salon to take the stress out of daily errands.
Photos: Rex Features, words: Anna Brech