Rick Telberg

Seven Tech Tools for Work-Life Balance

Can you deduct the boat as a second office? Learn how CPAs manage work on the go. Join the survey; get the answers.

August 18, 2008
by Rick Telberg/At Large

For CPAs, working outside of the office is not just a matter of getting more work done. It can improve your life.

"Being connected through a smartphone and e-mail allows me to work toward achieving that ever-elusive work-personal life balance," says a senior staffer at an accounting firm, who adds that those devices allow him to be accessible to clients even when he is working at home for family reasons.

Rodney Almaraz, a senior manager in the Austin, Texas office of Clifton Gunderson, says the one to 10 hours that he typically works outside of the office "allow for flexibility of scheduling personal life commitments while still maintaining productivity." He also notes that his firm is "growing fast and places great emphasis on work-life balance."

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Both CPAs are among the 75 percent of our panelists — from all walks of the accounting spectrum — who rate the ability to work out of the office as "very important." Only three percent say it's not that important. Also, two-thirds (66%) say that working away from the office increases their productivity. These findings are according to a recent CPA Trendlines study by Bay Street Group LLC.

Most CPAs are rapidly deploying the tools of a traditional office while working away from the office — at home, at a client location or on the go, even while attending a child's Little League game — including the following:

  1. Receiving voicemail and making phone calls
  2. Sending and receiving e-mail
  3. Using the Internet
  4. Accessing documents and files usually stored on the office computer or server
  5. Updating office-based time and billing systems
  6. Managing customer relationship management data and updating information about clients and contacts
  7. Accessing technical research and reference material

While work-life balance is now becoming a bigger factor for those who work away from the office, the fact is that some people just work better without the traditional office. Stu Wallace of Wallace & Co Ltd. in Hartfield, Va., notes that, sometimes, "one needs to get away from the fray in order to be productive."

It's the best of both worlds for Carl G. Peterson, managing partner at Peterson, Peterson & Associates, a CPA firm in Minneapolis, who says, "It allows me to meet with clients in their comfort zones and allows me to be at home with family or for kids' events and still be productive and responsive to clients."

Elaine Rizzo, an operations controller in London, England, says that working on her laptop at home allows her to take her children to school in the morning and spend more time with them in the evenings.

Being able to work while away from the office is more of an all-business issue for Karen Landry, CFO with an engineering consulting firm in New Orleans, who notes, "When you are the only individual who provides a function to a business, [it's nice that] you don't feel as though you have to be in the office all the time."

The biggest problem that CPAs have with mobile working arrangements is the sense of being on the job all the time.

Wayne J. Belisle, a public practitioner in El Paso, Texas, says working at home makes his family happier, but notes it also often makes him "feel always on."

"You need to be careful to not let work become over-dominant," says one CPA working as a corporate executive, "I don't do that very well."

A side effect of working out of the office may be high hopes. Asked how his work-away-from-the-office experience could be improved, Kirk Glenn, a practitioner in Hilton Head, S.C., suggests that the IRS let him write off his boat as a second office.

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SOUND OFF: Rants, raves, ideas or questions? Contact Rick Telberg at rickt@cpatrendlines.com.

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Copyright © 2008 CPA Trendlines/BSG LLC. All Rights Reserved. First published by the AICPA.