News Analysis – Greedy or trying to survive?

More than a third of busy accountants would prefer to clinch a #10,000 deal than enjoy their child’s starring role in the school nativity play.

And despite repeated calls for an improved work/life balance, 13% of UK finance professionals say they are regularly in the office during the festive season rather than at home with the family.

Although only one per cent said they would be working on Christmas Day this year, 43% admitted they would be at work at some point during the Christmas season though not on the public holidays.

These findings are revealed in an exclusive survey carried out by Accountancy Age and The Co-operative Bank’s telephone and internet bank Business Direct.

The survey of 1,000 finance professionals showed that Britain’s accountants and tax managers regularly cancel Christmas, work through weekends and take their calculators with them on summer holidays.

Over one third of those surveyed said they worked weekends, and 16% regularly took work away with them on holiday.

The results come at a time when more and more emphasis is placed on getting the balance right between work and private lives.

But perhaps the most shocking revelation of all was that over a third would be prepared to miss an important occasion for their child in order to clinch a business deal.

Children starring in their school’s Christmas production could therefore find themselves looking out at an empty seat where their accountant parent should be sitting.

Many accountants and their employers appear to be paying only lip service to the work-life balance concept.

Long hours are the norm, with the majority of respondents busting the traditional nine to five office hours every day, and over a third regularly working at weekends.

An over-worked 39% were regularly working more than 48 hours a week, with an enslaved seven per cent putting in more than 60 hours at the office.

And the issue of 24-hour availability also reared its head, with six per cent admitting they had lost business by not being contactable around the clock.

Home working would appear to be an attractive option, with modern technology – such as fax, modems and computers – making it easier for the put upon accountant to be away from their office.

Four in 10 said they would prefer carry out their business from the comfort of their home rather than enduring delays on public transport to get into work.

But before life/work balance consultants throw their presentations out of the window and give up in despair, the survey statistics reveal that 79% of the respondents were male.

This perhaps served to reinforce the stereotypical image of the male that would be prepared to sacrifice his home life in order to get on at work.

One financial controller in the retail property sector who regularly worked over 45 hours a week said there was a macho element to putting in long hours and that at times there was little comprehension of time management.

A previous boss would take off two weeks every year just to patch up his marriage, he said.

Two months ago, mid-tier firm Littlejohn Frazer was among 69 organisations that won government funding to help improve their employees’ work-life balance.

On the basis of this latest survey, it seems that it will take more than 69 companies to change attitudes.

Battling against long hours


The four lucky winners of six bottles of Moet & Chandon champagne, offered for taking part in the survey, are Chris Baldwin of Gloucestershire, Chris Boden of Seaford, S Bird of Hertfordshire and Peter Taylor of Stockton-on-Tees.


Have you ever lost a client/customer by being unavailable 24-hours a day?

Yes: 6%

No: 94%

With today’s technology – phone, fax, modem and computer – would you prefer to work from home?

Yes: 41%

No: 50%

Don’t know: 9%

Do you intend to buy Christmas presents over the internet this year?

All: 0%

Most: 3%

Some: 39%

None: 57%

You are going to watch your child take the leading role in a one-off event (eg. Nativity Play, Captaining a Cup Final side, winning top prize at school Speech Day). At the last minute, an opportunity arises which could result in a #10,000 business deal. Would you miss your child’s event to clinch the deal?

Yes: 36%

No: 64%.

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