The mantra of “work-life balance” is now more than a decade old in the accounting profession, and the Best Firms to Work For are taking it far beyond the old idea of letting people leave a little early or come in a little later.

Many of them actually shorten their work weeks – at Westlake, Ohio-based Corrigan Krause, the firm’s 49 staff work 36-hour weeks from May to October, but are paid for 40 hours, while in Hanover, Pa., the 29 employees of RLH CPAs have a regular work week of 37.5 hours, as well as the ability to set up alternative schedules to fit their needs.

In other cases, firms are actually mandating that employees stay away from work by closing their offices. Cypress, Calif.-based Murphy, Murphy & Murphy, for instance, which has a four-day workweek, gives all of its 45 employees a paid week off for the last week of the year.

At Tanner, feedback from the Salt Lake City firm’s 104 employees led to a policy that goes in an interesting direction: “When an employee works 40 hours in a week, even though they may not be at the end of that week, they can take the rest of the week off,” the firm reported.

Still other firms, like ATKG in San Antonio, Mowery & Schoenfeld in Lincolnshire, Ill., and MiddletonRaines+Zapata in Houston are experimenting with a cutting-edge vacation policy that’s starting to catch on in the accounting profession: unlimited paid time off. Essentially, as long as their work gets done, employees can take many vacation days as they like.

And here’s one final bold approach to flexibility and work-life balance: At Johanson & Yau, a San Jose, Calif.-based firm with a staff of 35, “We recently reduced (and incentivized) billable hour goals for all accountants -- and eliminated firmwide minimum work hours during tax season.”

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