Balancing Work and Life

Julie Shenkman
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The Internet has transformed the way we do business, and accountants are witnessing the evolution of the financial world every day. The accounting world is also experiencing other dramatic changes; the XYZ credential is being developed, the AICPA is working on a national web portal and the SEC is developing new standards for auditor independence.

There has been another significant change in the accounting industry and the business world at large: the evolution of the work environment. Professionals are saying they want more than success in the office, they also want satisfaction in their lives.

Accounting firms have begun to understand that in order for today's new breed of professional to produce the highest-quality work, they have to produce a happy employee, one who has a fulfilling career and personal life.

"Today's workplace is on your side," writes Amy Joyce in her September 11th Washington Post article 'Work - and Life - in the Balance.' "You're not alone in wanting to have a better life, and you won't be the first to ask a potential employer about ways to make it happen. And employers are listening."

Many accounting firms are doing more than listening-they are leading the way in helping their employees enjoy a rewarding life and a prosperous career. Ernst & Young promotes "life balance"; their online Career Center promotes that "creativity, commitment, and morale all improve when people can work in an environment that recognizes happy lifestyles." They admit to a profession and business ethic that often result in late hours and long workweeks, but at the same time they've made a commitment to supporting the balanced lives of their employees. How do companies like Ernst & Young support the kind of life that today's workforce demands? Their program includes flexible work arrangements, family tele-conferencing for traveling employees, privacy rooms for nursing mothers and diabetics, adoption assistance programs and even a concierge to help with travel plans, dry-cleaning, even taking pets to the veterinarian.

Do these programs sound unfeasible? Even foolish? Actually, a supportive work environment is becoming very common in many of the Big 5 accounting firms. Deloitte & Touche also promotes a "Work/Life Balance" Program. The company has created "Shared Values" for the firm to support; among them is the goal to, "Respect the personal lives of our people and support them in balancing multiple commitment and interests."

Do these programs really work? The success of the big firms and their employees seems to be a sign that these programs are doing something right. At Deloitte & Touche, employee satisfaction was at an all-time high of 83% in 1999, when their "Work/Life Balance" program had been in use by most employees.

In today's competitive employee market, companies are focused on attracting the best employees, and programs with creative benefits have become a top priority for today's young professionals. Most large accounting firms have recognized the power of these programs. Arthur Andersen is another Big 5 accounting firm that has created new benefits for its employees. Their website clarifies the issue for accounting firms - and all businesses - striving to be competitive employers in the 21st Century:

"An organization that isn't helping its employees achieve goals, aspirations and - most of all - happiness will lose them to companies that will."

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  • Nona
    Nona
    Sharp thniking! Thanks for the answer.
  • Loryn
    Loryn
    Great post!
  • Mellie
    Mellie
    Very true!
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