As research shows that the accountancy sector is in the bottom three when it comes to granting dads improved work-life balance, Daddilife’s Joe Flanagan offers six ways employers can help their staff be better dads and happier workers
Only one in three employees working in the UK are happy with their work/life balance according to the happiness index. The remaining two thirds believe their work eats up almost 50% of their life. Ideally, these employees would want to devote just 30% of their lives to work and the rest to their family life.
But, in reality, this is not the case.
The two most common factors that affect the work-life balance among British employees are found to be work pressure and extended working hours. And, this is true for nearly every industry.
When it comes to accounting, the situation is much worse. Employees have to manage strict deadlines, piles of paperwork, demanding clients, all without compromising on efficiency. Plus, they have to constantly keep updating their skills as the technology is hitting the need for conventional, rules-based accounting skills.
With so much on their plate already, these employees find it difficult to focus on their family life, especially childcare.
Work life dilemma
In the UK, accountants who become dads are more prone to face severe work-life issues. They have to withstand workplace stress, long working hours, career and peer pressure, lack of paternity leave, lack of employer understanding and support, and so on.
Daddilife conducted a survey in association with Deloitte; almost 48% of dads in accounting requested a change in their work hours because they were struggling with work-life problems. But only 56% of these dads were heard.
Also, about 13% of the new dads requested working from home for one-to-two days every week, but only 15% of them had their requests granted.
This survey also revealed that nearly 20% of new dads in accounting requested to work from home for more than three days per week, but only 17% of them had their requests approved.
All these statistics clearly show that a growing number of dads in accounting are now demanding flexible work opportunities. This is because it is becoming more and more challenging for them to juggle work and parenting responsibilities.
Unfortunately, a large segment of UK employers is still ignorant to their dilemma. Or, perhaps, they are just not willing to accept the reality.
But the situation is gradually changing all over the world.
According to the Macquarie Accounting and Financial Services Benchmarking Report, stressing on work-life balance is one of the top four people strategies implemented by the most financially prosperous accounting firms globally.
However, there is still a long way to go.
One of the main reasons why dads in accounting find it difficult to strike a balance between work life and family life is the lack of support from their employers.
Almost 66% of dads who participated in this survey revealed that they are made to feel guilty by their line managers whenever they request any flexibility for childcare reasons.
Some other common reasons are incompetent co-workers, fussy clients, long commutes, lack of paternity leave, inflexible working hours, and tension with the partners.
Accounting vs other industries
The research revealed that accounting is among the bottom three industries that offer flexible work options to employees after they embrace fatherhood.
Sectors such as retail and construction (73%), pharmaceutical/chemical (70%), and utilities (69%) show higher success rates for changing working hours as compared to accounting (15%).
Accounting firms in the UK are finding it challenging to offer their employees a rewarding career, while still keeping their clients contented and their bottom line healthy.
So, here are six proven strategies that firms can use to improve work-life balance among their employees.
1. Reward and appreciate output, not input
The performance of an employee should be measured in terms of value, not efforts. Evaluate and reward metrics such as billings under management (not just direct billings), effective hourly rate and new revenue closed. Focus less on numbers like the raw number of hours billed.
2. Lead by example
As an employer, lead from the front by setting the right example for all employees. Place a shared focus on work and external pursuits.
3. Do not drown your employees
Employers in accounting firms often throw the work at their employees to get it done quickly. This can eat away team efficiency and motivation. Instead, dive in to work with your employees as a part of the team.
4. Offer sufficient resources to get the work done
It is not possible for accounting professionals to get 100 hours of work completed in a 40-hour week, even if they work competently. Consider engaging offshore staff to manage the bulk of compliance and routine work. This way, internal employees can focus more on client-facing work.
5. Give your workforce a break
Usually, accounting firms have a culture where the management considers taking breaks or going home at a reasonable hour as a career-restricting move. In such a culture, work-life balance can never prosper. Ensure that your staff gets sufficient time out and rejuvenation for a more dynamic workforce.
6. Implement family-friendly policies
Family-friendly policies like paternity leave and flexible work hours are discussed a lot but are often not implemented as systematically as they should be. Consider offering paid paternity leave to the new dads working in your firm and/or accommodate their request for flexible time to ensure better employee satisfaction and retention.
About the author
Joe Flanagan is community director at Daddilife