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Seriously, Stop Making Saturdays Mandatory During Busy Season

With the recent “controversy” from the article posted on CPA Trendlines, we now have to discuss mandatory Saturdays. I can’t help myself. Stop making Saturdays mandatory. Seriously, just stop. How is this still a thing? (I feel like I’ve been saying this a lot lately.)

And when I say stop making Saturdays mandatory, I mean completely. Unless, of course, there’s a client emergency that requires in-person collaboration, but how often does that happen? On a Saturday?

There are 3 levels of offensiveness that I see here that need to be stopped immediately.

Mandatory full-day Saturdays in the office

This is the worst. Forcing your staff to come in from 8AM to 4PM on a Saturday even if they don’t have work. What?!? I didn’t even realize this existed anymore until I read CPA Trendlines.

Steve Smith was a staffer who didn’t appreciate mandatory eight-hour Saturdays when he had only two hours of work on his desk.

Poor Steve. Steve could have completed his two hours of work from home, enjoyed the rest of his Saturday, then bragged about how flexible and awesome his firm is. Instead, Steve left that firm.

We support work flexibility! (with full-on guilt trip to come into the office from 8:01AM – 12:59PM)

This firm is actually worse than the firm that requires mandatory Saturdays. You will often hear, “As long as your work gets done! Work whenever!” but then when you attempt to take advantage, the bosses say,“You’re not coming into the office on Saturday? Oh, yikes.” Guilt and judgment unite!

In this situation, the firm says they are flexible on paper. In reality, the actual culture of the firm promotes unnecessary pressure, judgment, and paranoia from the top down. When policies are not clear or inconsistent in practice, staff don’t know where they stand. When this happens, staff spend time worrying about how they will be perceived, their reputation, and their performance. Not a good combination when firms want productivity, efficiency, and solid morale during busy season.

Mandatory half-day Saturdays in the office:

This firm requires all staff to physically come into the office on Saturdays, but only until lunch. Staff know where they stand even though the policy is antiquated. This is the most common practice that I’m aware of and can be the easiest to adjust towards a more forward thinking policy.

It can be difficult to challenge the status quo but change is necessary. Firms are struggling with retention, succession planning, and millennials want more progressive and modern firm cultures. So how can firms move past mandatory Saturdays?

  • Embrace work flexibility. The verdict is out. Work flexibility needs to hit CPA firm culture now. Studies show that work flexibility increases productivity and satisfaction for employees. Technology allows it and millennials are demanding it.
  • Trust your employees to get the work done. By establishing other metrics besides mandatory in-office face time, CPA firms give their employees the gift of trust. Some other metrics to measure performance include deliverable dates, as well as chargeable hour and realization targets. If a firm can’t trust their staff to work from home, why hire them in the first place?
  • Create specific, firm-wide policies. When creating a new policy, instead of mandatory in-office Saturdays, be specific and clear. Are Saturdays completely optional now? How should staff communicate their schedule? Firms need to take the guesswork out of what is expected so staff feel empowered and trusted across all departments, from the top down. Ineffective communication of progressive policies can be worse than direct and clear communication of antiquated policies.

Does your firm still require mandatory Saturdays? How have you resisted or suggested improvements?