The growing importance of workplace benefits among chartered accountants

In today’s consumer-centric society, success is often equated with being busy. We fill our calendars with more meetings, events and tasks than our working day allows, often sacrificing our social lives in the process. This mentality has contributed to widespread acceptance of long working hours, unpaid overtime and an ‘always on’ culture, leading to feelings of high pressure, stress and even burnout.

However, as public awareness around mental health and the importance of self-care grows, an increasing number of people are choosing to focus on their wellbeing rather than their monthly paycheck and the badge of honour that often comes with being seen to be ‘busy’. As a result, employees are now demanding from their employers a benefits package that goes beyond traditional remuneration. 

This is particularly true for the accountancy industry, given the extensive training and education required to become a chartered accountant and the long working hours often associated with the job. A 2019 CABA survey revealed the extent to which this can be felt across the industry, with 1 in 3 accountants stating they feel stressed every day. 

Yet, despite the abundance of evidence out there that suggests that workplace benefits contribute to a happy and motivated workforce, many firms are yet to action and offer a package in line with modern demands.

In this article, CABA, the wellbeing charity for chartered accountants and their families, looks at some of the most popular types of workplace benefits and explores how these could help accountancy firms to cultivate a healthier and more supportive workplace. 

Flexible working hours

CABA research of UK employees has found that 40% regularly work overtime during the week, and 34% regularly check emails in the evening or at the weekend. These statistics are particularly worrisome as working too many hours over a sustained period of time can lead to serious health issues including high blood pressure. In fact, working more than 40 hours in an office each week has proven to raise the risk of high blood pressure by up to 70% because of stress and lack of exercise.

Yet, research also shows that increased work hours do not result in increased efficiency. Companies trialing shorter working weeks have actually found that productivity levels among staff improve significantly, because staff are less fatigued. For example, when Microsoft Japan tested a 4-day week back in August 2019, productivity at work shot up by about 40%. In accountancy, Dorset-based Bright Horizon Cloud became an industry trailblazer when it introduced 6-hour working days in a bid to improve staff wellbeing and morale, and as a way to reduce the number of sick days being taken.

Accountancy firms should therefore consider whether introducing flexible working would have a positive effect on their employees’ physical and mental health, as well as overall output. 

Recognition systems

Accountancy is a demanding profession and one which can leave some feeling stressed and under pressure. Introducing a structured recognition programme can help to alleviate suppressed negative feelings by making more employees feel appreciated and valued. According to a survey by the American Psychological Association (APA), feeling valued is a key indicator of job performance and should therefore be at the top of every manager’s list of priorities.

Recognition can take a variety of forms and they often don’t have to be costly. For example, employers can introduce working at home for those who have gone above and beyond or arrange regular breakfast or lunches for employees who have had a particularly successful week. A job well done can also be recognised by providing additional support or empowering the employee in ways such as greater choice of assignments, increased authority, or naming the employee as an internal consultant to other staff.

Paid volunteer days

Offering paid time off to volunteer has a number of benefits such as attracting and retaining top talent as well as increasing productivity. Giving employees a sense of meaning and purpose whilst growing their engagement and sense of empowerment translates into satisfaction and productivity in the office. Participating in paid volunteer days for charity helps to build a sense of teamwork and commitment.

Company culture

A positive change to company culture can make a real impact on workplace morale. A workplace with a clear mission connecting employees’ daily work to a broader social purpose and positive change will bring the best out in people and will provide workers with a clearer and healthier approach to their work.

Whether you create a mindfulness room as a space for accountants who are feeling particularly stretched with their workload or you encourage early-finish Fridays, being known as a business which puts its employees first will not only bode well with your current team but for future talent too. 

This contribution is issued by CABA. 

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