Opinion – Accountants are not benefiting from flexibility.

What a sad lot accountants are – or at least it seems so if you read a recent study from the ICAEW on what it euphemistically calls ‘flexible working’. According to a random sample of 3,000 of its members, 99% of accountants are working over their contracted hours by an average of about 10 hours. They are, in effect, working more than an extra day a week.

Many words spring to mind to describe this, and flexibility certainly isn’t one of them.

The findings probably come as no great surprise to many hard-working accountants, while others will no doubt take comfort in the fact they are not the only ones suffering.

But the mere fact the ICAEW has chosen to highlight the issue, and make the point that long hours are not really a good thing, is encouraging.

It is clear from the institute’s statistics that many employers have not got very far in promoting policies that allow their staff more flexibility and to have a decent life outside work.

However, the report points out that those who do offer effective flexible working practices are perceived as the ’employers of choice’.

When the labour market is tight, therefore, employers have something obvious to gain from not working their staff until they collapse.

But there are other business reasons for treating staff well – including better performance and fewer mistakes.

Employers should not forget these if attracting new staff becomes less important to them.

It would be a shame to see moves to make working life better become a victim of falling business confidence.

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