Why an 80-hour work week doesn’t have to be the norm for accountants

tax season may be over, some accountants are still finding themselves working
long hours. At many firms, it’s common for accountants to put in up to 80 hours
a week, working late into the night and on weekends to complete year-end audits
or tax returns.

culture of overwork is ingrained in many corners of the accounting sector, a
challenge exacerbated by a tight labour market that’s left some firms
short-staffed. But some in the industry feel strongly that it’s time for
accounting firms to rethink this model.

don’t want to work to the point of exhaustion and not have the opportunity to
enjoy life,” says J. Rolland Vaive, founder of Vaive and Associates.

firms tell young people to work hard for a couple years and promise that things
will eventually settle down. But young people see the long hours at every level
and they don’t want that.”

2018 survey by trade publication Accounting
found that 71 per cent of large firms in the industry are struggling
to find talent. That can often mean that the rest of a firm’s team is forced to
shoulder a heavier burden.

workplace culture also plays a big role. Vaive remembers working long hours in
his early years. He says senior accountants are trapped into thinking that this
is normal and subsequently perpetuate a culture where young accountants are
encouraged to work long hours. When he launched his own firm, Vaive wanted to
create a more sustainable culture in which work-life balance is valued and a
predictable 40-hour work week is the norm.

course, the nature of the industry means that a few extra hours are often
needed during tax season. To offset this, Vaive closes the office on Fridays
during July and August so his staff can enjoy extra long weekends over the
summer. Senior staff are also encouraged to monitor the hours that members of
their team are logging and offer assistance as needed.

Vaive says these policies are a way of treating staff fairly and with respect,
he also says it’s good for business. Citing research from Harvard University,
Vaive says predictable work hours, combined with time off at night and on
weekends, is tied to higher productivity.

introducing the reduced summer schedules some five years ago, Vaive says he’s
seen lower turnover and improved morale. “The key word is sustainability,” he
says. “We don’t want people to burn out.”

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