The debate: Taking your holiday leave

Live and let leave

By Howard Lewis

Partners who feel they cannot go away without things falling apart in their absence may need to look at the way their practice is run. That said, many partners choose to be in contact with the office during annual leave. I want to be kept informed while I’m away and while this does not mean I respond to every email, it does allow me to be available if needed and keeps me in the loop.

Modern technology has revolutionised the way we work, allowing us to stay in touch wherever we are. For many, receiving a few phone calls from the office, or checking emails during annual leave is hugely preferable to finding a full inbox and a mountain of information to catch up on when you return.

At our firm we aim to provide a ‘personal service’, and while we can’t be available 24 hours a day, we do believe that the partner-client relationship is about more than fees and profit, which means partners invest a part of themselves. Commitments are a corollary of seniority.

I would not expect members of my team to interrupt their holiday, but as partner, I would rather take a quick phone call from a journalist or a client while I’m on the beach than miss out on an opportunity for the firm.

I work with many international clients and taking or making calls outside my normal working hours is a fundamental part of my commitment to them. On the other hand, the majority of my clients will only contact me during my holiday if it’s very urgent. In which case, I’m more then happy to be available.

In reality, few partners take their full holiday entitlement. As part of our commitment to work-life balance there is a clause in the partnership agreement, stipulating that partners must take a minimum number of weeks holiday a year. It is necessary for everyone to have time away from the office to spend time with their families and pursue their hobbies.

However, forcing partners, who are passionate about developing their business and supporting their clients, to take their full holiday entitlement would be counterproductive.

  • Howard Lewis is a partner at MacIntyre Hudson

Get away from it all
By Diane Brennan

It is crucial that partners, and indeed all staff, take their full holiday entitlement, because time away from the office plays an integral role in refreshing staff. Without a sufficient break from work, partners are likely to be over-tired, over-worked and inefficient, which ultimately affects the quality of work and the level of client service.

Some partners view themselves as indispensable and think they cannot possibly take time off for a holiday due to a misplaced fear that the firm will collapse in their absence. This kind of attitude is prevalent in partners who believe that they, as an individual, are more important than the firm, when in reality the whole is always greater than the sum of the parts.

If partners do manage to spend time away from work, they should only be contacted in extreme circumstances, if at all. Some partners like to collect their messages on holiday as it does provide peace of mind, but ultimately partners should not be contacted unless it is an emergency.

Most of us enjoy our professional life, but I think it’s important to strike a balance between home life and work, because this often facilitates a higher standard of work. Often, partners have the best ideas when they are away from the office, demonstrating that they can see and fully comprehend the ‘bigger picture’ when they take time off from work.

In order for partners to feel comfortable about taking leave, accountancy firms must ensure that key competencies and client relationships are not held by a single person. Having a number of people with core skills and relationships with clients facilitates training and team work, and means staff can take their holiday entitlement, which helps to promote and maintain the highest service standards.

A ‘work hard, play hard’ culture, coupled with good client relationships and teamwork, should ensure that both partner and client are happy. We actively encourage people to take time off, and have recently extended our working day by half an hour so that all staff members can take an extra week holiday every year.

  • Diane Brennan is managing partner at Jackson Stephen chartered accountants.

Related reading