If you are like many other accountants, finding the ideal work-life balance might seem like a pipe dream. But the need to find this balance only becomes more important as you work another 60 hour week or respond to an email on your phone at midnight.
Technology makes you accessible around the clock, from wherever you might be. Undeniably, this has advanced the way you communicate and many of your firm’s efficiencies, but it has come at the cost of blurring the lines between your personal time and work time.
As your accounting firm grows more clients and work will be taken on, requiring you and your team to put in more hours of work. Inevitably this means that your personal life—and sleep—will suffer even more. Hard work is unavoidable if you want your firm to grow, but it’s not sustainable to work hard all the time.
Too much work is not healthy—it can lead to high blood pressure, heart issues, lack of fitness and a whole raft of other issues. It can also cause high-stress levels, hurt your relationships, and generally make you unhappy.
But driving yourself too hard isn’t only dangerous to your personal wellbeing—it is also an impractical way to run an accounting firm. A positive work-life balance for all staff is essential if your team is to perform at the best of their ability—those that can find the balance will see noticeable improvements in their productivity, creativity and motivation, and will be more likely to stay with your firm long term.
Reflect on what’s important
Rather than letting life just happen, you need to take a step back and look at things from a higher level. Decide what is most important to you and make a deliberate effort not to sacrifice these things.
If eating dinner with your family is at the top of your list, make an effort to leave the office at 5pm at least three nights a week. If getting outside to exercise is important, book times in your calendar to go for a run.
Your own circumstances will require a unique approach, but the key is to identify what you value most and make sure you don’t just leave them for the time that might be left over after work.
Identify the critical tasks and prioritize them
You must learn to identify your own tasks, clients and jobs that are the most critical. Think about the key things that you must do to drive your firm to success. These are what you need to prioritize and invest your energy in above any other work projects.
Look at your other tasks that aren’t as crucial and think about how you can manage these. If you are a manager you may want to think about delegating some of these tasks to other staff members. If your days are constantly filled with meetings that don’t rely on your attendance, consider politely declining an invitation.
The objective is to ensure you are focusing your time on activities where you provide the most value to your firm.
Force yourself to unplug and switch off
No single factor has blurred work lives and personal lives more than advancements in technology—creating an expectation of constant accessibility. A UK study found that four in five office workers check their work email after leaving the office, and a third even access email before they get out of bed in the morning. If that sounds familiar to you, you probably feel like your work day never actually ends.
It’s important to force yourself to take regular time to wholly switch off from all things work-related. For many accountants, this requires switching off your devices, or at the very least—putting them in another room and walking away.
Managing the expectations of your colleagues and clients will also ensure that you don’t feel obligated to respond to an email or phone call at 9pm.
If you are struggling to grow your firm, we challenge you to implement at least one of these ideas. If you do, we’d love to hear the progress and result. You can also reach out so one of our advisors can help you out.
Also, if your firm has implemented any other strategies to ensure your staff all maintain healthy work-life balances, we’d love to hear from you.