Work-Life Balance for Public Accountants In Canada

Amanda Upshall Professional Corporation |

Do number crunchers get caught in the crunch of struggling for work/life balance? They sure do. Accountants in public accounting firms tend to be worked hard. There is constant pressure for them to increase their productivity in a highly competitive workplace.

But accounting firms know how precious their human resources are. They want to attract the best people and keep them from burning out. It’s not as if they have an unlimited pool of talent to draw on. Each year Canada produces a limited number of CA’s (Chartered Accountants).

Another reason for accounting firms to be more flexible: a growing number of CA graduates are female. Of the 13,000 CA students represented by CICA (Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants), 50% are women.

What Accounting Firms Are Doing To Prevent Burnout

Have a look at the latest job postings for accountants. Many of them boast of providing work/life balance. Phrases like “flexible work arrangements available,” and “reduced work schedules” abound.

According to CICA, here is a sampling of what the big six Canadian accounting firms are doing to provide work/life balance for their employees. If you are applying to a smaller firm you may want to ask if they’ll provide equivalent arrangements should some of these appeal to you.

Allowances For Flexible Schedules and Work Arrangements

  • Annual community contribution day (volunteering) allotment
  • Choose your own start and finish times
  • Compressed and/or flexible work weeks
  • Job sharing
  • Maternity top-up
  • Paid adoption and paternity leave
  • Reduced hour Fridays during the summer
  • Reduced work schedule (less than full-time, according to your needs)
  • Sabbatical program and leaves of absence
  • Seasonal work schedules allowing up to 40% reduction in hours
  • Short-term leave
  • Telecommuting / working from home several days a week
  • Up to 50 hours of personal care time annually

Services To Ease The Pressures On Employees

  • Access to a personal assistant (personal concierge) to help with daily errands.
  • Adoption assistance
  • Back up elder and child care
  • Discount meal-delivery services
  • Employee Assistance Programs for confidential counselling
  • Weekend travel options (e.g. spouse to join employee out of town)

The View From A Smaller Accounting Firm

Smaller employers suffer even more than large ones when a valued staff member burns out. The impact on the company is immediate. There is scrambling to distribute the workload, rearranging of schedules, and often no one to backfill a position left vacant due to stress-induced absence.

Flexing With the Times

So what do smaller accounting firms do to assist their employees? “We work with our staff to help them address concerns that might impact their ability to perform at their usual level,” says Fred Epstein, CA, co-founder of public accounting firm Levitt Feldstein Dubin Epstein & Pinsky in Montreal, Quebec.

When Mr. Epstein helped start his firm some 35 years ago, it was still the norm to have one spouse working and the other tending the home. Staff were expected to put in long hours. This often included evening and weekend work.

“Over the years we have reduced the number of working hours substantially, so that our employees have time to take care of themselves and tend to their outside commitments,” says Mr. Epstein. He believes that this contributes to better physical and mental health. “We also keep a careful eye on how the workload is spread. If necessary we adjust our systems or add personnel to relieve the major stress points.”

Treating Staff With Respect
Mr. Epstein’s firm also pays for required medical leaves, and offers flexibility regarding family leave, sick days, and an employee’s personal obligations. “What we do here is treat our people with dignity and trust. Our turnover is low and we are convinced it is due in large part to the loyalty we foster,” he says.

At Levitt Feldstein Dubin Epstein & Pinsky, an atmosphere of candidness prevails. “Our partners here have an open door policy. We encourage our people to come in and share their concerns, and solicit advice,” says Mr. Epstein. “We try to identify problems an employee may be having, possibly ones we see that they haven’t mentioned.
Then we work with that person and create a plan that each of us can live with.”

Ultimately Mr. Epstein believes in traditional values for looking after employees. The approach his firm uses seems to be effective. The company continues to prosper, and the employees know that if stressors compound they can turn to one of the partners for support.

Creating Work/Life Balance For Yourself

It’s great to see accounting firms offer a range of work/life balance solutions. But as an accountant there will always be pressures to finish off one last file, check those financial projections a second (make that a third) time, and attend after hours company events to stay on top of office politics.

How then to make sure you keep your job and personal life in balance? Here is a list of some articles on to help you juggle it all.

Find work at home accounting jobs.

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Article Courtesy: -By Mark Swartz