Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : April 16th 2015 Contents APRIL 2015 • WEEK THREE www.guardian.co.tt BUSINESS GUARDIAN
COMMENTARY | BG13
Aquestion that new
ask me is: how should
I treat my staff?
They want their employees to be happy and
productive, but don t know how to achieve
that balance. How much responsibility do they
actually have for workers physical and mental
health? What sort of perks do they need to
offer in order to attract and retain the best
In recent years some companies have tried
innovative approaches to answering these
questions, taking advantage of advances in
technology and changes in our society. Many
younger people, for instance, like to have flex-
ibility in where they work, so some businesses
offer employees the ability to work from home.
Other businesses, like Zappos, have thrown
out their entire organizational structure, along
with the job titles!
At Virgin, we ve taken two big steps over
the past couple of years: we now offer employ-
ees at our head offices unlimited annual leave
and flexible work schedules. Our teams have
responded with enthusiasm. If the experiment
continues to work well, I m sure many other
companies both inside and outside of Virgin
will follow suit.
The policies also highlight something that
we at Virgin have all been discussing for some
time: the importance of employees well-being.
Our passionate and varied debates about
employers responsibilities in this area prompt-
ed us to focus our next Virgin Disruptors forum
on the subject, "Your Workplace Well-Being:
At What Cost?"
The value of measuring well-being, even
beyond business, was summed up nicely by
a panelist who will be joining me at our debate
later this month.
Jim Clifton, the CEO of Gallup, recently
pointed out on our Disruptors blog that the
one of the few signs that the Arab spring was
about to happen a few years ago could be
found in data about well-being that was meas-
ured in Tunisia and Egypt.
While gross domestic product in both coun-
tries looked healthy between 2008 and 2010,
discontent was bubbling under the surface.
"Just about everyone in the world thought
those countries were fine," Clifton wrote. "But
no one saw that well-being was crashing in
both societies. Well-being metrics for nations
and cities and organisations will become as
or more important than traditional economic
measures, such as GDP or company stock
prices, within two decades; simply because
they predict better."
So what steps should entrepreneurs and
managers take to improve employees well-
being at their companies?
Every company and its staff is little different,
so I don t want to suggest a one-size-fits-all
solution. The basis of the best initiatives is to
treat people with respect and give them more
My primary tip: be bold. Don t be afraid to
try new things; just let your team know what
you re doing. Then get feedback from your
staff, and if a policy doesn t work, it s OK to
reverse it or make changes. You re looking for
solutions that work for everyone in the com-
pany. While it s true that you can t please
everyone all of the time, giving people choices,
rather than a rigid set of rules to follow, will
ensure a feeling of empowerment across teams.
And remember to embrace your employees
individuality. Their family commitments,
extracurricular activities, different health
requirements and other aspects of their per-
sonal lives shouldn t be viewed as baggage.
After all, successful companies have diverse
I have to say that it s been interesting to
see how one of our newest businesses, Virgin
Hotels, has shaped its wellness programme.
Since they re based in Chicago, a city that s
very culturally diverse, they have had a lot of
bases to cover.
Here are just some of the steps the team
has taken to ensure that every hotel employee
is happy on the job: offering healthy food
options for staff, providing yoga classes in the
hotel, setting up a softball league, sponsoring
English-language classes for those who don t
speak it as a first language and making a serious
commitment to mental well-being.
Above all, keep in mind that a business is
a collection of people. If your people are not
happy and healthy, then your enterprise s prog-
nosis isn t good either. But if you make sure
they have the time and support they need,
you ll set them and your company up for suc-
cess in the long term.
(The next Virgin Disruptors debate will take
place on April 23. Watch live on Virgin.com at
3 pm Eastern time.)
(Richard Branson is the founder of the
Virgin Group and companies such as Virgin
Atlantic, Virgin America, Virgin Mobile and
Virgin Active. He maintains a blog at
can follow him on Twitter at
twitter.com/richardbranson. To learn more
about the Virgin Group: www.virgin.com.)
(Questions from readers will be answered
in future columns. Please send them to
RichardBranson@nytimes.com. Please include
your name, country, e-mail address and the
name of the Web site or publication where
you read the column.)
Working on well-being
How to keep your staff happy, healthy
Here's how to find policies that suit your
• Experiment: Don't be afraid to try new
ideas and always keep your team in-
formed about what you're doing.
• Try, try again: If a policy misfires, don't
give up. It's OK to make changes or scrap
it and try something new.
• Ask for opinions: Get feedback from
your staff and be sure to find solutions
that work for everyone in the business.
• Choices are key: No, you cannot please
everyone all of the time. But giving people
choices, rather than a rigid set of rules to
follow, will make them feel empowered.
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