Richard Branson Urges CEOs to Let More Staff Work from Home

The billionaire's call comes as studies suggest remote working practices are becoming increasingly common.

A hammock, a sofa or the bathtub. That’s where you could well find Richard Branson, who says they’re some of his favorite spots to work from.

In a new blog post, the Virgin Group CEO claims he works from his home on Necker Island in the Caribbean Sea six months a year—sprinkled with the odd bit of tennis, kite-surfing and lemur spotting.

Yes, it helps to be a billionaire who can afford to live on his own tropical island. But Branson insists that doesn’t mean ordinary people should be denied the opportunity.

“Too many companies don’t realize the monotony of a lot of people’s day-to-day life at work,” Branson said. “I try to encourage chief executives worldwide to make sure that there’s as much flexibility in the workplace as possible.”


His approach clashes with that of Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, who made news in 2013 by requiring all staff to work in a corporate office. The controversial move, while widely panned by working mothers, appeared to receive some vindication a year later, when whistle-blowers revealed that thousands of home-based workers at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office lied about the hours they were putting in.

Of course, some forms of work are more easy to skirt than others, making telecommuting perhaps more appropriate for employees with set tasks that must be achieved in limited timeframes.

For his part, Branson argues that staff work more effectively “when given the freedom to make their own decisions”, while noting that some of his boldest new ventures, such as space company Virgin Galactic, were conceived at home.

“It’s critical to get the balance between work and play right. Find time for yourself; work hard, but also play hard,” he said.

A Gallup poll released in 2015 found that 37% of U.S. workers said they had telecommuted, up from 30% a decade earlier and 9% in 1995. To be sure, working from home still remained more the exception than the rule, with workers telecommuting about two days per month, on average.

Separate research released last year by Boston-based consultancy Strategy Analytics estimated that the global remote workforce would grow from around 38.8% of all employees in 2016 to 42.5% in 2022, largely due to advances in technology such as cloud computing and virtual offices. “Businesses are also continuing to take advantage of telecommuting, and offering employees flexible working environments,” the consultancy said.

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