Accountancy students worry about work/life balance

Over a third of accountancy students are unhappy about their work-life balance according to a survey of wellbeing amongst ICAEW ACA students conducted by CABA, the sector charity, which found that many are worried about long hours and are concerned their health is suffering

The research with over 450 students revealed that almost two in five (38%) feel their work-life balance is not good. A major concern was the amount of time work takes up in their personal lives, with 28% saying they are expected to work extended hours – evidenced by the fact 25% of respondents worked 43-60 hours a week.

A quarter (26%) said this lack of time was affecting their personal lives, whilst another fifth (22%) said there were not enough hours in the day to complete the work. Despite working long hours, time management was highlighted as a strength by respondents, with 83% saying they are able to manage deadlines, with another 83% agreeing they are able to take a lunch break.

Students’ physical and mental health was also flagged as a concern, with 42% saying they felt this was below par. This was mirrored in 44% of respondents saying they felt less healthy than a year ago.

Lack of time to do physical activity (30%), diet (23%) and stress (22%) were cited as reasons for feeling unhealthy.

CABA says the research suggests the effects on students were stark, with respondents experiencing tiredness and loss of energy (27%), stress in their working lives (20%) and not getting enough sleep (17%), which were all key impacts on workplace productivity.

Kath Haines, CABA’s chief executive, said: ‘Striking a work-life balance is hard, but working too much is a vicious cycle – not getting enough sleep or exercise will be to the detriment of their workplace performance.

‘This could be remedied by reminding student ICAEW members that it’s good for them to take a break or to go home on time, as they need to learn how to balance their workloads and lifestyles. This is a skill they will need throughout their career, so it’s best to start now to prevent serious issues like burnout occurring later on.’

The research also looked at the motivations for joining the accountancy sector, with long-term career prospects, career opportunities and financial benefits named as the biggest motivations for training as a chartered accountant. Once entering the profession, good career progression (24%), financial stability (22%) and job security (17%) were the biggest expectations.

The social aspects of the profession were also highlighted as a motivator, with 30% of respondents naming this as the most enjoyable part of work life. Client relationships (24%) and variety of work (23%) were also key motivators.

Haines said CABA is partnering with the ICAEW to form a joint working group to tackle some of the issues highlighted by the survey.

‘There are clearly many enjoyable aspects of being a chartered accountant, with many ACA students and ICAEW members confident of a successful and varied career. We’re keen to help facilitate this, and help the next generation foster success whilst maintaining strong levels of wellbeing.

‘Therefore, for those struggling with stress, weight issues or balancing their work and home life, we urge them to give us a call, as we can help with all facets of wellbeing, supporting students and our members to live a happier, healthier life.

‘It’s important to note that whilst we work in partnership with the ICAEW, we’re completely independent and all communication with us is treated in the strictest confidence,’ she said.

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