Generational Viewpoints on Vacation: It’s Not a Perk

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Vacations and Work-Life Balance

It is summer and everyone’s thoughts are on vacation – whether long weekends or booked time-off. In conversation with a client, he mentioned that he had just been on a 2-week vacation. He continued saying that it was the first time in his career that he had taken 2 weeks off in a row. It was a badge of honour for him, as he is a hard-working dedicated professional. While certainly, you can have individuals who are work-a-holics in every generation, there is one generation to which this moniker is ascribed to as a cohort. The Baby Boomer generation is described as being the work-a-holic generation more so than any others.

Work-a-holism: Nature or Nurture?

This trait was perhaps developed as a result of the high-levels of competition that existed when this generation came on mass into the workplace. They had to prove their value, their worth. They had to prove that they could be a star team player. That often involved working extra-ordinarily long hours, and mimicking behaviour that Traditionalists valued. Traditionalists often were proud when they retired with hundreds of sick and vacation days accrued.

The Need for Work-Life Balance

It is only after many Baby Boomers burnt out and more sophisticated research was done in the field of human resources that work-life balance became a significant and recognized issue. Some organizations started to insist that employees take vacation and / or allowed only a certain number of carry-forward days per year (while the skeptics might argue that this was a cost saving measure, it may also have done to the benefit of employees). Organizations started to recognize the link between well rested and healthy employees and productivity.

The Younger Generations Struggle Less

Gen Xers and Gen Ys don’t see vacation as a perk provided by the company – it’s a right. And many would be willing to negotiate for more days off, whether paid or unpaid. Work-life balance which became a nice-to-have for many Baby Boomers was a must have most Gen Xers and Gen Ys. In fact, the latter generation would prefer work-life balance within the day, not just within the year. Vacation is part of the total compensation package to which both parties agreed to. There are few actions that affect engagement levels more than the case where managers do not support or make negative comments toward an employee taking vacation.

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