In this edition of Generational Viewpoints, we explore the perspectives of two team members on perceptions of time off. We asked Baby Boomer audit partner Randall Ottaway, born in 1955, and Millennial manager Lindsay Stevenson, born in 1982, from Arizona-based Walker & Armstrong, to answer the following question: "What's the difference in the way generations view time off?"

 

OTTAWAY'S BABY BOOMER VIEWPOINT

Younger generations desire work-life balance and alternative work schedules that include time off. At the other end of the spectrum, Baby Boomers are more likely to suffer from work overload. The most noticeable difference in the way generations view vacation time appears to be more focused on the duration of any single period of time off. Rather than mostly taking time off in weekly increments, which is status quo for Baby Boomers, younger generations appear to take it in increments of days -- one day here, two days there. Although the "seasoned" generation may view traditionally slower work periods as prime opportunities for enjoying time off, younger generations tend to be uninhibited in requesting time off during busier times of the year. Accordingly, there appears to be a direct correlation between the duration of time off and the timing of each request for that time off. The longer the duration of the time-off period, the more cognizant the requester is of the timing of the request, and vice versa.

Interestingly, we are not seeing a significant delineation between generations within our firm on the overall desire to use time off. No one generation has cornered the market on desire for time off, which is shared equally.

A year ago, our firm adopted a change in our time-off policy that allowed for a non-quantifiable amount of time off subject to the availability of work, client and regulatory deadlines and, accordingly, work schedules -- aptly referred to as "freedom leave."

Our flexible time-off policy is not based on a specific amount of time off, but rather productivity and available time. When compared to our prior, more traditional time-off policy, which was based on quantifiable yearly amounts of time off, the amount of time off by different generations under our new non-quantifiable policy of freedom leave remains relatively consistent with historical trends.

We have the pleasure of enjoying a committed staff of professionals spanning three generations from the seasoned Baby Boomers, through Generation X, to the recent Millennials. We find that the generations are more alike than different. Accordingly, we try to embrace our similarities and understand our dissimilarities.

 

STEVENSON'S MILLENNIAL VIEWPOINT

Time off in the CPA world is an ever-moving target. Deadlines have historically created "slow" periods. More recently, however, "slow" just doesn't exist for most CPAs. To add to the challenge created by the industry itself, differing viewpoints and priorities between generations within the same office often make time off an "off-limits" topic.

Most executive-level CPAs are Baby Boomers and they have been grinding through the traditional work model for years. They were expected to be at the office from at least 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. throughout their early careers and, realistically, longer if they wanted to progress professionally. Traditional time off consisted of the automatic two weeks every year, increasing by an additional week for every x number of years you stayed with the firm.

This model is still the most commonly used amongst CPAs today. Baby Boomers view time off as something you earn by putting your head down, grinding out the work and "sucking it up." Time off is a reward for a job well done and should be viewed as a privilege, not a right. There is nothing wrong with this way of thinking, and some Gen Xers and Millennials are even motivated to produce effectively under this model.

Gen Xers are caught in the middle -- literally. With their parents set in the traditional time-off model, most Gen Xers believe that model works. However, this generation believes that time off should be representative of your efforts.

When a Millennial starts in the marketplace, two weeks of vacation seems like a drop in the bucket for the time they believe is necessary to have a life outside the office. Receiving 80 hours of time off when you have worked 2,500 hours in a year doesn't seem to result in the work/life balance that everyone, no matter their generation, is striving for.

Even with all the generational viewpoints, there are time-off structures that allow for consideration of each viewpoint. Time off can be a function of productivity, flexibility, loyalty and reward. That is the benefit of multi-generational inputs - a better model for time off in the future. Our firm is piloting such a program, and we will keep trying new things until we find a model that is optimal for all.

 

This column is facilitated and edited by Brianna Marth, the Millennial sales and marketing coordinator, and Jennifer Wilson, the Baby Boomer co-founder and partner of ConvergenceCoaching LLC, a leadership and marketing coaching and training and development firm that specializes in helping leaders achieve success. To have your firm's generational viewpoints considered for a future Accounting Tomorrow column, e-mail brianna@convergencecoaching.com.

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