Can Accounting Firms Lead With Work-Life Vision?

And 5 practical ideas to implement measures to create real work-life balance at your firm.

Work life balanceBy Hitendra Patil
Pransform Inc.
 

Do you want employees who have:

  • greater engagement in their jobs
  • higher levels of job satisfaction
  • stronger intentions to remain with their employers
  • less negative and stressful spillover from job to home
  • less negative spillover from home to job
  • better mental health

Aren’t these the things most accounting firms would want their employees to experience?

Hitendra Patil
Patil

In a 2014 National Study of Employers conducted under the “When Work Works” project, Families and Work Institute and the Society for Human Resource Management noted that employees in more effective and flexible workplaces are more likely than other employees to have such desirable traits mentioned above.

Do you and/or your employees work 12-14 hours a day or 50-60 hours a week, don’t exercise, always feel tired, sleep poorly, eat junk food more often (mostly at your desk) and find it difficult to meaningfully engage with your near and dear ones?

If this is you and/or your employees, Manage Your Energy, Not Your Time, says the Harvard Business Review citing reference to The Energy Project, which states 74 percent of employees are experiencing a personal energy crisis.

Further, one of the Top 5 Trends from “Employers in the U.S.: Five Surprising Trends” states “The reason for providing employee supportive programs is the retention of employees.

The 2014 employers survey uncovers a valuably actionable intelligence that CPA firms can implement to help employees get the experience they are craving. And these findings point to something that accounting firm leaders perhaps haven’t really focused on till now, i.e.

Creating A “Work-Life Vision” to Drive Your Firm Into a Better Future

Published so appropriately on Labor Day, Harvard Business Review highlighted some key findings from the survey in the article Give Your Organization a Work-Life Vision. One of the most critical observations is that human resource policies almost never touch the “what is overwork” factor, which is actually the most important factor that touches the lives of employees every day! What a disconnect between employer and employee! Can a firm afford this disconnect?

And the only way to reconnect with the reality of employees’ lives is to create a work-life vision for your firm.

How? 

One of the key themes is sustainable engagement through a culture of (human) energy management. If you have used or heard the term “burnout,” it is a classic result of non-sustainable management of talent. The more capable a person is, the more he/she gets loaded with work and responsibilities, thereby resulting in burnout.

The simplest solution is to identify such talent and provide him/her with a small team (even a shared team will do or for that matter, an outsourced team is okay too) to which he/she can delegate and transfer skills. In the process, the aim should also be to document procedures so that future knowledge transfer is systematized.

According to a case study at Ernst & Young, it's not the number of hours employees work that determines the value they create, but rather the energy they bring to whatever hours they work. E&Y experienced that the loss of employees whose value increases with each year of experience significantly increases costs of recruiting and training people to replace them.

Help employees renew their energy intermittently DURING THE WORKDAY by turning off emails for some time; having small but frequent healthy mini-meals every three to four hours; encouraging quick workouts at an in-house or nearby gym; using standing desks; using air ionizers etc. 

Pick a few really practical ideas from this free, 61 pages full of actionable insights, Workflex ToolKit, which gives some amazing ones such as “shift trading.” Create a form that your employees can fill out, rating each idea on a scale of 1 to 10 with10 being the most liked action item. Compile the results, and implement the top three that most employees rated highly.

Creating the work-vision culture is not about writing a vision statement or process document. It requires two distinct things:

  1. Provide visible resources (that serve as reminders e.g. posters, pictures on the wall) that prompt employees to manage their energy efficiently and
  2. Have a measurement system that tracks every employee’s use of such energy management resources.

Encourage desired behavior by publicly celebrating small wins of each employee. When any employee says he/she really feels great due to healthy meals and intermittent breaks, put it on your website and social media accounts; publish it visibly within your office. Enthusiasm is contagious.

As a person leading a business myself, I feel a well articulated “work-life vision” would tremendously help attracting talent to your firm. But the challenge is to implement the vision consistently and evidently to make employees actually experience it on a daily basis. How will you do so?

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