Finding Work-Life Balance in Accounting
The accounting profession is notorious for its grueling workload and demanding hours, especially during tax season. The daily grind of crunching numbers amidst mountains of paperwork often becomes all-consuming for accountants. Tax deadlines along with audits and financial reporting cycles create intense pressure to work long hours year-round. The need for meticulous accuracy and rigid timetables, along with immense financial responsibility, has entrenched a high-stress culture of seasonal overtime.
This begs the question: is it truly impossible to find work-life balance in accounting and still pursue a meaningful career? Must personal well-being be sacrificed to succeed in this field?
The Harsh Realities of Overwork in Accounting
Burnout in Public Accounting
Facing new legislation, urgent consulting projects, the shift to hybrid working and unrelenting deadlines during COVID-19 pushed many accountants to their breaking point. Despite filing extensions providing short-term relief, the extra time ultimately swamped many teams. Post-2021 turnover rates confirm the immense toll, as scores of accountants fled jobs that had become unsustainable. In fact, the WHO has recognized burnout as an occupational phenomenon.
Surviving Tax Season
Tax seasons are pressure cookers for public accountants. Working long hours to meet tight deadlines amidst constantly evolving tax laws demands extreme mental resilience.
This excessive overtime grinds people down, leading to pervasive burnout, stress and related health issues that bleed into personal life. Even the hardiest individuals often crumble under the weight of unrelenting deadlines, client demands and overwork. For many, tax season is a period to be endured, not embraced.
The Far-Reaching Impact of Overwork
Long Hours Become the Norm
Overwork permeates the daily lives of many accountants. Workdays bleed well into the night, with emails and calls persisting late into the evenings. Surveys reveal the extent of this issue: nearly 50% of accountants log at least 13 extra days annually, with many working well beyond contracted hours.
Toxic Office Cultures
Excessive workloads also breed unhealthy office environments. Over half of accountants see their workplace culture as toxic. Common complaints include poor communication, unreasonable expectations and competition with colleagues. This stress and negativity fuels a vicious cycle where people become dissatisfied, overwork worsens and burnout spreads.
Additionally, overwork is often normalized or even glorified in accounting circles. Those upholding reasonable boundaries risk scorn for not being “team players.” This ingrained mindset creates huge obstacles for achieving true balance and sustainable workloads.
The Compensation-Workload Imbalance
Stagnant Wages, Growing Responsibilities
For many accountants, the reward no longer aligns with the work. Despite taking on more responsibilities and working longer hours, pay increases have stagnated. Accounting salaries simply haven’t kept pace with the rising cost of living. This financial squeeze further distorts work-life balance in accounting.
Impacts of Inadequate Pay
When hard work and skills aren’t rewarded fairly, dissatisfaction follows. This breeds high turnover, reduced productivity and a loss of talent. It also pushes accountants to overwork or moonlight to cover expenses, furthering burnout.
Inadequate compensation also penalizes organizations through hiring/training costs and reputation damage. Overall, the compensation-workload mismatch erodes job satisfaction and entrenches the excessive overtime culture.
How Firms Can Cultivate Work-Life Balance
Embracing Remote and Flexible Arrangements
The accounting industry has traditionally clung to rigid in-office work models. But the pandemic forced a huge shift to remote work for many firms. This revealed valuable lessons about achieving better work-life balance through telecommuting and flexible schedules—no more wasted commutes, greater control over hours, more time for family and self-care. Many companies now embrace these flexible options, reporting it bolsters employee satisfaction, productivity and retention.
Offering remote work also expands talent pools and builds more diverse, inclusive workplaces that accommodate caregivers, people with disabilities and others requiring flexibility. However, organizations must purposefully update old policies, invest in technology and rethink how they assess performance to fully leverage these benefits.
Building a Culture That Values Balance
Moving the needle on work-life balance in accounting requires an organization-wide commitment, not just piecemeal policies. Leadership must actively cultivate an environment where employee wellness and fulfillment are woven into the cultural fabric, not tacked on as an afterthought.
Key ingredients include:
- Leaders practicing true balance themselves and setting an example
- Open channels to discuss work-life challenges without judgment
- Providing training and resources related to stress management, mental health and personal time management
Overall, balance must be woven into the fabric of the company culture, its values and its actions. Lip service is not enough.
Outsourcing for Workload Relief
The reality of the accounting profession is that there will always be times when people are working longer hours to keep up with demands. Accounting firms juggle many complex tasks, from number-crunching to marketing and admin work. These ancillary duties pile onto the already heavy workloads of accountants, making balance impossible. Outsourcing some of these tasks can bring major relief.
For example, handing off marketing work to specialized agencies like The Growth Partnership can lift a huge burden from accountants’ shoulders. This enables them to focus on critical accounting projects and skillsets. It also provides expertise beyond what any in-house team could achieve.
Let TGP Help You Achieve Balance
At The Growth Partnership, we are committed to championing meaningful change through services that tangibly reduce burdens, empower expertise and promote workplace well-being. We invite accounting professionals to explore our tailored solutions aimed at helping CPAs and firms thrive, both personally and professionally.
While work and life may never truly be in “balance” in the accounting world, they can be integrated in a healthy way. You don’t have to sacrifice your well-being for your career. With the right strategies and partners, professionals can work hard while also having time for the other parts of their lives that they value. The path won’t be easy, but the destination is one worth fighting for. Contact us today to get started.