Winning Firms Know the Secrets

Work/life balance proves essential to recruiting, retaining staff. How’s your busy season so far? Check the Stress-O-Meter.

February 21, 2008
by Rick Telberg/On Careers

If that CPA working next to you appears stressed out by the job, take a long, hard look because you may not see him or her again in the future.

While CPAs in all walks of the profession are strained and face tough workloads, those feeling the greatest stress and workplace demands are more likely to be seriously in the market for another job. At any given moment, about one in three CPAs would consider changing jobs, according to our studies, even if it meant a pay cut, in exchange for better working conditions. Among the most stressed-out CPAs, the ratio of jobseekers jumps to about half.

So it’s imperative for managers of CPAs to offer state-of-the-art workplaces if they want to retain hard-to-find staff.


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“Don't let work take over your family life,” advises Joe Parker, a senior executive at a Virginia homebuilder.

On the other hand, says Dave Reklau, a senior executive at a clothing manufacturer in North Carolina, "Overtime, whenever and for whatever reason, is part of the territory for someone who wants to get ahead. That is part of the difference between a career and a job. Responsibility to get the project or day-to-day duties completed sometimes requires more than an eight-hour day. All that being said, there are times when family and personal life come first.”

Among CPAs who admit to being open to new jobs even at reduced pay, nearly three in four (74%) reported being either frequently under stress or at a crisis point with stress on the job. By contrast, only about half (45%) of CPAs not in the market for job change are feeling the same levels of stress.

The job seekers include a public practice senior executive who works an average of 50 to 60 hours per week and is feeling added stress from “more complicated work and fewer qualified staff available.”

Some firms are thriving because they’ve figured it out. A CPA at Virchow Krause & Co. joined this super-regional after leaving a Big Four firm specifically because he was seeking less stress and better balance with his personal life. Now he reports he’s less stressed and happier.

“Finding a company that is family-friendly is more important in the long run than pay,” adds one corporate CPA.

Another CPA who has found the right balance recommends the book, The Power of Full Engagement by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz, which deals with ways to manage energy to avoid burnout.

And then there’s Robert S. Seltzer, a sole practitioner in Beverly Hills, Calif., who’s relatively content with the balance he’s achieved. He works weekends, evenings and occasionally during holidays. But it’s all worth it. He takes six weeks of vacation a year.

HOW DO YOU KEEP YOUR BALANCE DURING BUSY SEASON? Join the study group. Get the benchmarks. Stay informed.

COMMENTS: Questions, rants or raves? Write Rick Telberg.

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