ARTICLE

How to Achieve Work-Life Balance

by: Smith and Howard

May 23, 2016

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Work–life balance, as defined by Wikipedia, is a concept that includes proper prioritization between “work” (career and ambition) and “lifestyle” (health, pleasure, leisure, family and spiritual development/meditation). 

CPA firms battle a cultural stigma that they work their employees too hard, especially with 60+ hours a week (including weekends) during busy season, leaving no time for “life”. In turn, the accountants themselves are sometimes stereotyped as stressed out workaholics, with careers that can take a toll on friendships and family. It is true that in public accounting, time management is of the essence from January to April, as this is our “busy season”. However, there’s no need for employees to go on hiatus from ”life”. With the right firm, everyone can enjoy a work-life balance.

We recently asked four of Smith & Howard’s staff members at various levels and from different departments the questions: “What is work-life balance to you?” and “How do you maintain your work-life balance?”  Here is what they had to say:

Sean Taylor (Audit Partner):  My feelings on work-life balance have always revolved around “integration” of work and life.  Any time people feel like their work-life is completely separate from personal life, they are bound to come into conflict.  To the extent you can make your work life a part of your personal life and have your personal life include those at work, the integration occurs and that allows for them to feel like they belong and harmony occurs.

Joel Alzola (Audit Manager):  Work-life balance to me is being able to still enjoy my priorities outside of work, which begins with my family, friends and health. For example, in the past few years I have become not only a husband, but a father, and the Smith & Howard culture has enabled me to balance new life events and make the necessary transition to parenthood with the added responsibilities. Smith & Howard made it easy to maintain my work-life balance through understanding and strong leadership examples. Smith & Howard is also a very family oriented firm, which makes it easy to integrate both personal life and work. Lastly, by being efficient, managing my time and communicating I have been able to maintain my work-life balance and continue to meet both my personnel and career goals.

Erin Sak (Audit Supervisor): Having flexibility in my job means a lot to me because it makes me feel like my employer cares about me and my family and doesn’t just think of me as a warm body to get the work done. Smith & Howard is really flexible and understanding when it comes to our family lives. If I have something come up with my son, like a doctor’s appointment or him getting sick, I have never felt like I can’t take time off to be with him.  It’s not to say that I don’t get my work done, I just get it done during non-business hours. There is definitely no expectation of me to work hours that would make me miss seeing him after work, or on the weekends. This flexibility has allowed me to have a family without hurting my career advancement. I didn’t feel like if I had a family it would hurt my career.

Cas Pittman (Tax Senior Manager): For me, work-life balance means being able to pursue my career path while fulfilling my other interests not related to work. That includes significant family and hobby time along with rewarding work, but understanding that it’s not always an equal split. During busy season, far more of my time is spent at the office, but after the tax deadline the balance shifts and I’m able to participate in more family events including ones that occur during normal office hours.  I love having a career where I find the work very fulfilling and where I’m in control of my schedule. If I worked a 9 to 5 job there would be significant daytime activities, like volunteering at my child’s field day this past week that I wouldn’t be able to participate in. Our industry has very favorable compensation and flexibility and so my ‘work’ makes my ‘life’ portion possible.

Nicole Davis (Tax Senior): Work-life balance to me means being able to achieve your work goals while also not giving up things that are important to you in your personal life. With all of the technology we have now (emails going to your cell phones, etc.) it can be hard to separate the two. Having a good balance though, leads to a successful career and happy home life.

In my experience, one of the biggest problems that can affect your work-life balance is the inability to say no.  I’ve learned that you cannot take on everything. You have to be able to communicate and shift work to other people, if needed.  Learning how to delegate tasks to other employees or simply telling a partner or manager that you do not have the capacity to do a project is something many people struggle with; however, it is very important if you want to maintain your personal life. Because we have such  a cyclical season in the tax group, taking time off and using vacation during our down times is crucial to avoid being over worked and burned out. If you are unable to say no, you can very easily miss the opportunity to take time for yourself.  Beyond good communication, other things that help me include: scheduling out my billable and non-billable hours at the beginning of each week, breaking down my billable hours per week to hit my yearly goal, and making planned vacations to spend quality time with my family. Everyone has their own ways of achieving balance, but these have worked best for me.

 

As you can see by the examples above work-life balance can be achieved and Smith & Howard is a firm that encourages and cultivates this culture.

Through work-life balance we can better serve our clients because balance makes our work and our workplace more enjoyable. When our people are happy they go the extra mile to make our clients raving fans. To learn about our current career openings, click here.

 

 

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