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Sweatshop Saturdays: Rethinking Where We Work

Last week over on AccountingWEB, I delivered a CPE course on Individual Leadership and how to achieve professional excellence by raising the BAR. BAR is an acronym for Boundaries, Authority and Role; one of the boundaries I can’t stop thinking about during busy season is territory.

The territory boundary is defined as the place where work happens, such as your cubicle or the conference room you are cordoned off to while at the client site. Leadership theory teaches us that dysfunction occurs when boundaries are too tight or too loose. We can easily see this in countries where wars take place over a boundary that represents where one country ends and another begins. Tensions run high and people literally die over a fictitious line drawn in the sand.

I see that the territory boundary is a hot spot for dysfunction in the accounting profession. Technology has enabled us to work from virtually anywhere with a connection to the internet. Yet even though the technology exists, we may not be able to use it and are required to have a physical presence in an office to prove that we are actually working.   

I will never forget how hard it was to work exhaustive hours during busy season — the inefficient Sweatshop Saturdays. By definition, sweatshops employ workers at low wages, for long hours, and under poor conditions. Uhm, yeah. That sums up my experience. For a few months out of a year, I had to drag myself into an office once per week for a 4-hour workday where we also took at least 30 minutes for a lunch and another 20 for breakfast.

I didn’t — and frankly still don’t — understand why firms have mandatory Saturday hours that require a person to be in the office for a shortened day. When you are cranking out the billable hours, every minute counts. Wouldn’t accounting professionals be better served saving the time it takes to commute, get geared up in business casual, and have yet one more meal with co-workers for just one day per week? I get that working from home isn’t for everyone and does not make sense to do every single workday. But isn’t there a middle ground that would allow a person to work from home on occasion to save time and, perhaps more importantly, one’s sanity?

As always, I am curious to know how our readers feel about this. What does your organization do well or not so well in managing work in a virtual world? If you were leading your department or firm, what would you change? Bring on the horror stories, adventures in short sightedness, effective polices and triumphs. By sharing your experiences and ideas for a better future, we can create a call to action and create what is a much-needed shift in my humble opinion (or, IMHO as you kids say).