Double-down on work-life balance

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It’s commonplace for accounting firms to claim they value work-life balance, but too often this devolves into lip service, with staff still facing heavy work demands, and remote work only just barely tolerated – and then only in emergencies.

At Accounting Today’s Best Firms to Work For, though, work-life balance is taken extremely seriously, with rigorous, clearly defined policies and approaches to back it up. Virtually all of them, for instance, offer flexible hours to accommodate school events, taking family members to the doctor, and so on, while 74 percent strictly limit meetings and staff-only events to work hours. A further 26 percent of the Best Firms have no overtime, or keep it to an absolute minimum.

Going a little further, 28 percent offer concierge services that will handle things like dry cleaning, meal catering, childcare arrangements and car services – and eight of the Best Firms actually offer paid sabbaticals, where staff can recharge their batteries and work on themselves.

There is no single policy or program that will guarantee work-life balance for employees. In Kansas, for instance, Allen, Gibbs & Houlik helps employees through a range of approaches, including “flexibility in schedules, telecommuting, remote access, a comp time bank and openness to employee concerns and suggestions.”

Similarly, Maryland’s Snyder Cohn cites a laundry list of work-life balance aids: “flexibility in how associates may complete a 40-hour week: alternative work schedules; flex days; working remotely; and a time bank (turning overtime into additional paid time off).”

Other firms take strong positions. California’s Johanson & Yau is putting money (and accountability) where its mouth is: “We recently reduced and incentivized billable hour goals for all accountants - and eliminated firm-wide minimum work hours during tax season,” it reported. “These are examples of our commitment to work-life balance.”

And a bold step for tax season sets Nebraska’s Frankel Zacharia apart: “We do not require working on weekends so our staff can manage their own schedules during busy season and work when it's convenient for them.”

Finally, Kentucky’s Rudler offers a great example of the intersection of work-life balance with technology and policy: “Our remote work policy enabled our senior accountant, a single parent, to relocate where her family support system will allow her to remain in the workforce.”

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