Give the gift of time

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Giving employees flexibility in how they schedule their work is an important benefit for accounting firms, but so is maximizing the amount of time off that staff have -- and making sure they use it.

The 2018 Best Firms to Work For take time off very seriously. Two-thirds of them (65 percent) give employees a lump sum of paid time off in a single bank of time (as opposed to specific amounts for vacation, sick days, personal days, etc.), with an average of 19 PTO days per staff member after one year of employment. A quarter of the Best Firms break it down by type of time off; among those, the average number of vacation days is 13.

Nine of the Best Firms -- including Nebraska’s HBE, Texas’ ATKG, and New Jersey’s KRS CPAs -- have embarked on the cutting-edge experiment of offering their staff unlimited PTO (often after they have completed their first full year of employment). This is basically saying that employees can take as much time as they like, provided they get their work done. It represents a tremendous demonstration of trust, and requires very clear expectations on the part of both managers and employees, as well as a very different approach to management.

When it comes to non-PTO time off, on average, the Best Firms give employees nine paid holidays every year, and four of them give 16 or more. Many also offer extra time off in the summer to make up for the rigors and demands of tax season.

An important part of giving employees that kind of extra time is making sure they use it – and a helpful way to do that is to actually close the firm’s office. Pennsylvania’s GMS Surgent CPAs, like many, closes its office at noon every Friday during the summer. This makes sure staff feel comfortable not coming in.

Along similar lines, some of the Best Firms, like Atlanta’s Bennett Thrasher and Indiana’s mAccounting, close their offices in the week between Christmas and New Year’s. Relatively little work gets done in that period anyway, and being closed reduces the pressure on staff to make sure they get “face time” at their desk.

Firms can also be creative (and climate-sensitive) in giving the gift of time: Pennsylvania’s Brown Schultz Sheridan & Fritz, for instance, gives every employee 16 hours of “snow time” every year “in the event of inclement weather.”

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