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The concept of work-life balance in the accounting profession is well documented on Going Concern. I wanted to discuss why all work-life balance initiatives in the accounting profession will ultimately fail. I was at a conference last month and the MC Chris Helder, explained an interesting concept which I have illustrated below:
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As we trudge towards busy season, there are certain things that everyone gets a little anxious about. Like not seeing the sun for three months. Like putting on an extra 15-20 pounds because you’re stuffing your face with takeout three nights (minimum) a week. Oh! and then there’s the hours. Right, the hours.
For those of you t awhile, you know how the game works. Do you really spend 14 hours a day staring at a spreadsheets, slapping together financial puzzles without nary a drop in your production? Obviously not. Some of you take smoke breaks. Some of you have the audacity to take a lunch hour. Some of you drop by this fine publication to keep yourself abreast of the latest haps in accounting world (and leave the page open all day). Some of you, on average, spend 15-30 minutes watching your your cubicle crush from afar thinking that you’ll just mosey over and say “What’s up? Numbers, huh?” only to snap out of your daydream.
All this non-billable time accumulates into a decent portion of your day. Accordingly, you work a little later to make up for your lack of productivity, charge the appropriate hours (based on your increasingly tighter budget) and you call it a day.
For those newer to the game, you may look up at the clock, note that it’s 6 pm and you think to yourself, “What did I accomplish today?” The answer: not much. But since there’s not charge code for “Fucking Around – General” and slamming it all to an administration code isn’t such a good move, you slip it into a code for a client that you’re supposedly working on. No problem, right?
Well, your managers and partners might have a problem. They look at the billed hours and then try to gauge what your progress is. If there are hundreds of hours and you have jack squat to show for it, people are going to be pissed.
With all that in mind, I’ll share a query from a reader out of Grant Thornton’s New York office:
I would like to know how wide-spread “Eating Hours” is at GT (NYC).
You are put on a project, its a lot of work, and as time progress more and more work piles on you. You end up putting a lot of hours. The manager/partner says that hours will not be a problem, and that you should bill all hours worked.
When the project is just about over, after you had worked tons of hours, when you are least expect it, they pull you into a meeting and admonishing you that there was no way that you worked those hours. (Basically calling you a thief to your face).
After that meeting, you are told to adjust all hours over and above the budgeted 35-40 hours work week.
Even though I am not an hourly employee, I do feel robbed in two ways. First, I can’t really enjoy the accomplishment of the project because I feel so cheated, unappreciated and disrespected by this unethical behavior. Additionally, I feel stress because how can I be expected to meet the already unrealistic utilization goals when those scumbags make me eat hours?
Okay, let me say first that I do not doubt this person’s account of being jerked around by a manager or partner with regard to hours. However, it’s a little bit unbelievable if this meeting where the de-pantsing occured came without any warning. Most of your superiors – whether they are partners, managers, SAs, whatever – are not completely unreasonable people. They don’t all of sudden turn on a dime and say, “Everything I told you was a lie. You should have known that you shouldn’t have been billing all those hours.” If that is the case, then you work for assholes.
Hopefully, if eating hours is expected of you, they tell you up front. I had former colleagues that were on engagements like this where a Senior Manager simply let them know exactly how many hours they were expected to bill but it was pretty obvious that they were going to be working far more than that to get the job done. It’s a fucked up equation to be sure, but at least you know what you’re up against. This has nothing to do with firms or offices but rather the people running the engagement.
As for GTNYC, it’s pretty tough to know how widespread the practice of eating hours is. How widespread is the alcoholism? Or doucebaggery? It’s not quantitative. But our tipster is still concerned:
I have spoken to many of my friends at other Big 4, at regional firms, and at smaller firms and no one had experienced it as bad as some of us here in GT (NYC).
Fine. But you’re very small cross-section of a huge population. Maybe you were just on a couple of bad engagements with bad partners/managers. It happens. Believe it.
For the Purple People Eaters out there, is eating hours at GT a problem? Does Vault have it all wrong? Eating hours definitely doesn’t win, but does it pay? Discuss below.
P. Dubs’ “More London” or “MoLo” location is reportedly quite the swinging joint but will only house half of the City’s 11,000 employees. Those left back at the frumpy office aren’t really pleased with this development and the FT reports has caused some to catch a case of “office envy”:
The aesthetic appeal [of the MoLo location] is burnished by eco-friendly credentials. PwC is also backing a nearby bistro and wine bar that will emulate Jamie Oliver by training the homeless. The firm’s staff will also be encouraged to use it. The zeitgeistiness of it all is too much for some of those stuck at PwC’s dowdier offices in Embankment Place, near Charing Cross. But relief could be at hand. [Chairman Ian] Powell revealed that the firm is in talks to redevelop the old site to give it a bit more pizzazz.
It’s been just over two weeks since the death of Angela Pan, an audit associate in PwC’s Shanghai office. One report of her death have quoted doctors stating that “Based on her symptoms and her low white blood cell count, it’s reasonable to conclude that overwork led to a weakened immune system, which makes her more vulnerable to infections.” It was also reported she told a friend she was working 18-hour days and about 120 hours a week prior to her sickness and death. However, Shanghaiist (yes, that’s the Gothamist for Shanghai) published a portion of a statement from PwC that stated that Angela died from viral encephalitis not acute cerebral meningitis as had been reported. An internal email from PwC in China found its way into our inbox late last week and it seems to echo the press release and provides other details.
[Ed. note: the second paragraph included HR and press contacts for those needing them so I’ve omitted those here. It did state that the information should only “be communicated verbally.”]
The date on the email was April 20th and the Shanghaiist article is dated April 15th, so whether this communiqué provides additional details, it isn’t entirely clear. The most confusing statement for me in this email is “as a sign of respect to Angela and her family, we have made a decision not to clarify the misreporting in the media at this time.” Seems to me that the respectful thing would be to correct the “misrepresented” facts if they are in fact correct. Of course this is happening in China where we can only assume what qualifies as a “respectful” action might differ from what is respectful in the U.S. Regardless, it’s terribly unfortunate that a young woman’s death had to serve as a reminder for everyone to take a closer look at their own health and behavior, as well as how culture and working environment may cause some to feel pressure to be at work when they shouldn’t.
Today’s round of minor irritations from our British sister from another mister:
Further to the “snorting employee” post, any ideas on how to deal with a colleague who goes into my desk drawers to get labels and paper clips and the like, when I am actually sitting at my desk?
They are a relatively new employee and I have been showing them some aspects of how to do their job. It is really my own fault for not stopping them when they started doing it, but now it really irritates me and I’m not sure of the most painless way to deal with it other than to just tell them to stop and use their own drawers! I hate any kind of confrontation, especially since we have to sit next to each other.
Any diplomatic ideas?
I don’t know about you all but diplomacy just doesn’t fly over here in States, so an accounting firm version of the Bush Doctrine seems to be the way to go. Let’s kick a few ideas around shall we?
When your fellow cube farmer comes digging around your drawer do you:
A) Allow them to find the item they need and walk back to their desk, wait five minutes, then proceed to their workspace and violently snatch said item off their desk/out of their hand?
B) Calmly get up with your beverage of choice in hand, walk over to the offender’s cube and pour the contents of your drinking receptacle on their computer?
C) Belch in their face?
D) Do a full spin in your aeron chair and crush their hand/wrist/lower arm in the drawer?
E) Your ideas