The ongoing work-life battle


We’re trained to work – hard. Becoming a chartered accountant is arduous and the professional demands made after qualifying are exacting. Whether in practice or industry, we deliver daily to colleagues, clients, professional organisations. . . we’re workhorses and most of us are strangely proud of this.

But the working world is changing and we need to recognise and embrace this in order to thrive.

Partnerships, board appointments and directorships aren’t for life. The 60, 70, 80+ hour week and accompanying rewards have perennial appeal, but increasingly accountants want to see their spouses, raise their families, have friends, contribute to their communities and enjoy the small and large pleasures of life. Some have always understood this; others have learned through redundancy, ill-health, divorce or death that there really is more to life than work.

Don’t misunderstand me. I understand the thrill of individual and corporate success and the monetary and emotional rewards which work brings. There are so many wonderful facets to working that, in my view, life without it would be a barren existence, providing the balance is right. However, we are caught up in global change – a transition period which will lead to a new and potentially unrecognisable working world.

Expectations are changing, which can be dangerous in any ‘people business’. Individuals entering the profession have radically different wants, needs and desires than their predecessors. Established, successful accountants want to downshift. Hard-working professionals seek career breaks which include satisfactory re-entry schemes. The ‘five in four’ option can be highly successful.

To fulfill expectations and create a professional force for the future, we must create workstyles which foster satisfactory lifestyles. We must recognise and reward traditional and new career paths. We must develop innovative work models and career structures which encourage achievement and celebrate the joy of professional endeavours and success. Most importantly, we must stop talking and take action. The work : life debate has blazed for years; it is now time for action.

Teresa Graham OBE is a partner at Baker Tilly and chairs the English ICA Workplace 21st Century committee

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