If You Think You Work Hard…

…don’t tell your clients. They may work as much or more. How hard do most CPAs work? Join the study. Get the answers.

July 23, 2007
by Rick Telberg/At Large

If you think balancing work and life is hard on CPAs, think again.

While accountants and finance managers may log long hours during busy season, many small-business owners are logging those hours all year.

To be sure, overworking isn’t good for anyone. But it may be more the rule for Americans rather than the exception.

Indeed, about half of the nation’s small business managers find themselves doing work-related tasks at times they’ve reserved for their families. The same number say they make business calls and check e-mail while driving.

How hard do most CPAs work?

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These new insights into the lives of business owners come in a national survey conducted for Staples, Inc. The poll investigates the balance between work and personal time for 300 owners and managers at companies with fewer than 20 employees, a sector representing about 90 percent of U.S. businesses, according to the National Federation of Independent Business. “Overall, respondents reported long hours, diminished vacation and an ever-blurring line separating work from time off,” according to the authors.

“Time is a critical resource for companies of all sizes, but it’s of even greater importance to small business managers, who possess a larger stake in their company’s success and often lack the support infrastructure of bigger businesses,” said John Giusti, a Staples vice president. “The results from this survey reflect what we regularly hear from our small business customers, who say a lack of time is a constant challenge.” No surprise to CPAs there.

The survey showed “some startling work habits.” Eighteen percent of workers in small businesses “admit to reading work-related e-mail and documents while in the bathroom,” and 49 percent work while driving. We’re not sure which is more hazardous.

Moreover, according to the study, “the pervasiveness of mobile phones and hand-held e-mail devices has only contributed to these long hours at untraditional times.”

Do you see yourself in any of these stats?

  • 68 percent work on days off, checking e-mail, voicemail or making work-related calls;
  • 66 percent work after hours and at night;
  • 51 percent work on holidays; and
  • 47 percent work during “what is supposed to be” family time.

For most business people, the “standard” 40-hour work week simply does not apply. Nearly two-thirds, or 62 percent, work well beyond a 40-hour week, and 21 percent work a “double” week, logging an extra 40 or more hours on the job. What are the main reasons for their heavy workloads? Respondents cited business growth (9 percent), added responsibility (7 percent) and “trying to keep up” (5 percent). Some business people make up for heavier work demands by, the authors say, “letting work trespass into once-sacred personal time.”

For example:

  • 21 percent work while eating dinner at least four nights a week.
  • 37 percent could not “readily remember” their last vacation. Of those who did take a vacation, about half worked during some portion of it.

Generally, the owners and executives of younger companies and those with fewer employees show “the most lopsided work-life balance.” And it’s not getting better. Some 92 percent say their workload is the same as or heavier than a year ago.

So the next time you complain about how hard you’re working, make sure you’re not talking to a small business owner. He or she will likely be unimpressed.

NOW IT'S YOUR TURN: How hard do most CPAs work? Join the study. Get the answers.

COMMENTS: Rants, raves, idle thoughts or questions? Contact Rick Telberg.

Copyright © 2007 Bay Street Group LLC. All Rights Reserved. Used by Permission.

About Rick Telberg

Rick Telberg is editor at large/director of online content.

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Disclaimer: Any views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of the AICPA or CPA2Biz. Official AICPA positions are determined through certain specific committee procedures, due process and deliberation.