It’s been a hard day’s night

12 May 2011

London, 12 May 2011 - While accountants may enjoy above-average remuneration levels, they may also be working longer hours, suggests new research from Robert Half UK and the ICAEW. According to the fifth annual Career Benchmarking Survey, more than three quarters (76 per cent) of ACAs who work full time work more than 41 hours a week and one in four (25 per cent) work more than 51 hours a week. The likelihood to work long hours appears to differ regionally with over one third (37 per cent) of Scotland and one quarter (27 per cent) of London and Eastern England ACAs working over 51 hours per week.

Despite the long hours spent at the office, UK-based ACAs are still working shorter weeks than some of their expatriate counterparts, with accountants in Asia and the Middle East reporting the longest work weeks, each with 45 per cent and 46 per cent, respectively, working longer than 51 hours. While this may be partly due to the seniority of the professional working out-of-country, it may also reflect differences in workplace and business culture.

Sharron Gunn, Director of Member Services, ICAEW said: “As in many occupations, long working hours either regularly or at certain times are accepted as inevitable. However, for accountants in business there is more variety in the types of accounting they do and many of the companies they work for are generally more flexible which can lead to an improved work life balance, much more than other professions.”

ACAs were asked, “In a typical week, how many hours do you spend working, in your office, or elsewhere?” Their responses:

By UK location:

 

 

Over 40 hours

51 hours

Scotland

77%

34%

London

80%

25%

East of England

68%

25%

Wales

70%

20%

South West

65%

17%

South East

63%

17%

Northern

66%

16%

West Midlands

60%

16%

North West

55%

16%

Yorkshire and Humber

60%

15%

East Midlands

54%

10%

 

By non-UK location:

 

 

Over 40 hours

51 hours

Asia / Asia Pacific

81%

42%

Middle East

86%

41%

Europe

75%

36%

Americas

77%

31%

Australasia

82%

27%

 

“While daily workloads and projects may often seem insurmountable, it is important to disconnect from the office and enjoy a certain level of work-life equilibrium,” said Phil Sheridan, managing director of Robert Half UK. “Workers who can balance their personal and professional lives are often more productive, focused and content both at home and in the workplace.”

As individuals try to work smarter instead of harder, there are lessons to be learned from certain industries. While nearly one third (32 per cent) of ACAs in banking and capital markets and 27 per cent of those in energy, water, mining and utilities work longer than 51 hours per week, only 12 per cent, respectively, of those in government and agencies and charity and voluntary, do so. This further underlines the preference for some to forgo financial remuneration in lieu of work-life balance.

By industry (Top 2 and bottom 2 listed):

 

 

41 – 50 hours

51 hours

Banking & capital markets

79%

32%

Energy, water, mining, utilities

80%

27%

Government & agencies

49%

12%

Charity / voluntary

47%

12%

 

Sheridan provides the following tips to assist workers in finding work-life balance: 

  • Find time for downtime. When planning your week, schedule time for family or personal commitments. Diarising events will help you stay focused on blending work life with home life. 
  • Eliminate time wasters. Perform a time management audit and assess which activities are absorbing a disproportionate amount of your day. Removing or delegating activities that don’t provide good return on investment will help you stay focused on the most important tasks at hand.
  • Outsource. Consider bringing in a temporary or interim professional to help manage day-to-day workloads or special projects. Someone with a specialised skill set can often complete initiatives in less time than it takes to tackle it yourself.
  • Put the ‘me’ back in time. Finding time to relax by exercising, reading or just going for a walk will help keep you rejuvenated and better equipped to tackle the workload.