How to find a work-life balance as an accountant

How to find a work-life balance as an accountant

Striking a work-life balance is difficult in our 'always on' culture, but it's imperative for individuals to stay productive and therefore businesses to thrive

Working in accountancy is not easy and doesn’t always lend itself to an equal work-life balance.

We know from our own research that 36% of ICAEW members are currently unhappy with how they balance work and home life.

Striking this balance is a skill that many wish to master, and with today’s 24/7, ‘always on’ culture, it can be difficult to take time to relax with the distractions of work, exams, social media, and friends and family pulling us in many different directions.

The phrase ‘work-life balance’ has certainly become key over recent years, and the more we hear about it, the more impossible it seems.

This is because there appears to be a general acceptance that it’s no longer achievable, with the consequences highlighted to us on a daily basis. We’re tired, unproductive, and endless statistics tell us how little time we have due to work pressures.

Let’s be honest, it’s now commonplace to check emails on an evening or weekend, and many of us stay late in the office on a regular basis. Our lives no longer have a clear separation between work and home, with the 9-5 seemingly non-existent.

Consequently, there’s rising concern – from the media through to government – about the knock-on effect of this on wellbeing.

The ‘always on’ culture

Advancements in technology have hindered our ability to strike a healthy balance. We’re expected to be more productive as tasks should take less time due to automation. Our mobile phones and laptops have opened the door to continuous emails and updates, meaning there’s no way for us to truly leave work, particularly in a mental capacity.

We can be reached at any point throughout the day, even if we’re not physically required to be there at that time. In short, the mental barrage is never ending.

The effects of this can in fact be deadly. Japan, for instance, is a leading example of when overwork goes too far. The country is famous for its overstretched workers, who are expected to work long hours – so much so that overtime legislation has needed to be introduced to stop people working all hours of the day.

The situation has become so dire that it is literally killing people – the word ‘Karōshi’ has even been developed to describe ‘death by overwork’, showing how a change in approach is urgently needed.

What’s more is this deadly issue in Japan is slowly leaking into UK workplaces, and although this may seem extreme, it’s an excellent way to contextualise exactly how out of control things can become when work-life balance is ignored.

Achieving a work-life balance

Whilst it’s undeniable that employers must take responsibility for their employees’ wellbeing, which is something we are starting to see in the UK, it’s also the responsibility of the employee to utilise their own skillset and keep their work-life balance in check.

Accountancy in particular is a competitive environment, therefore it’s imperative for you to learn how to look after yourself so you can set yourself up to thrive.

So, how does an accountant take care of their work-life balance, in an ever-demanding world from which they can rarely switch off?

The answer – by learning to integrate work and life, instead of trying to balance them: acknowledging that the 2 will always be intertwined but not always equal, and acting accordingly.

Ultimately, it’s about being present during your down time, in order to make the most of it. This creates a clear boundary between your home and work life, as by keeping them mentally separate, they can illicit different emotional reactions.

Striking a healthy balance – whatever ratio of home to work time that may be – comes from utilising time wisely and following age old advice.

Find enough time in your day to eat healthily, rehydrate and get fresh air: these simple measures can easily all be incorporated into a lunch break. Exercise can be especially beneficial as it relieves tension, releasing feel-good endorphins and improving or stabilising your mood. Plus, it makes you more productive. Taking a rest to supercharge your afternoon can pay dividends. Working through is never the best option and is often counter-productive as you become less effective the fewer breaks you have.

It’s time to change

Although the UK has enjoyed its largest jump in productivity for a decade, it is imperative that something changes. We know from our own research that more than 1 in 3 employees (36%) think about quitting their position on a regular basis, and 13% admit to feeling stressed at least once a day, showing how our work lives are negatively affecting us.

So, it’s time to take control. This means setting boundaries and sticking to them, to help yourself as much as possible. No one can work long hours consistently, so if you want to climb to the top of the career ladder, listen to your body, take a rest and use your energy in concerted bursts of effort.

If we try to integrate our work and personal life in a responsible and reasonable way, we won’t only benefit ourselves, we’ll benefit those we care about and the company we work for too.

 

CABA is the charity that supports chartered accountants’ wellbeing.

 

 

 

 

 

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