All of life is a great balancing act, and the balance between work and life is no exception. However, existing work-life balances are not working for many professionals, particularly for CPAs. In a profession where the work hours can be 40+ hours a week (based on time of month and year), plus a busy home life, the current work-life balance for many CPAs does not provide them with the flexibility they need, leaving them burnt out and unhappy.
Since employers and employees are looking for better work-life arrangements to accommodate the demands of busy schedules, we asked several CPAs—including CPA Alberta CEO, Rachel Miller—for their tips on how to achieve work-life balance.
Tips for individuals/employees:
Practice strong communication
Communication is key to any relationship, especially with employers and employees. Being upfront about competing deadlines, expectations, workload, time commitments, and your personal and professional needs protects you and your employer.
“Use clarity and communication. To supplement the communication methods you already use with the people you work with, build in additional strategies with those to whom you report and to those to whom you are accountable. Create a strong two-way communication and protect yourself,” says Howie Shikaze FCPA, FCA, CPA Assist Committee Chair. These strategies can include immediately rescheduling cancelled meetings and scheduling mid-point check-in meetings with the person you report to in order to ensure you’re both on the same page for projects you’re working on.
Set clear boundaries
Boundaries, both personal and professional, are important to set and constantly reevaluate. “Try to remember that it is too easy to default to overworking and exhausting yourself. Once you make a boundary, honour it, and follow through,” reflects Howie Shikaze.
Build in personal strategies to help you uphold the boundaries you set. If you are struggling with setting personal and professional boundaries, seek out resources and utilize supports available to you such as CPA Assist, Human Resources, and your employer.
Build personal resilience
Build resilience by practicing stress management, exercising, eating well, resting, and taking your vacations. Above all, don’t get discouraged. “Remember: things are never going to be perfect. I have adapted many strategies over the years and in different phases of my career. You have to find what works for you and follow that,” says Rachel Miller FCPA, FCA, CEO of CPA Alberta.
Scheduling fun in your life may seem counterproductive but it can be a useful tool. “My husband and I deliberately plan at least one holiday a year where there is no cell service. We value that time together,” says Rachel Miller.
Scheduling “fun” time not only serves as a reminder but also as a commitment to yourself to take time away from the office.
“I would put everything in my calendar and book time in for golfing, parent-teacher interviews, and family commitments. It allowed me to look at my full week and hold me accountable to all the demands of my time,” shares Howie Shikaze.
Tips for employers:
Employers should consider implementing initiatives that allow for flexible schedules, such as “earned days off,” compressed work weeks, personal days, alternating work start and end times, or adjusting lunch break times to allow individuals to maximize and optimize their time.
“Having the ability to work a reduced work week has been invaluable to me; it has allowed me to continue doing a job I love while feeling that I am still getting quality time with my family. It has also allowed me to continue to volunteer which is something I am certain I wouldn’t be able to do if I worked full-time with a young family. Taking on a different role in a part-time capacity has allowed me to successfully balance both areas of my life,” reflects Carly Rigler CPA, CA.
Where possible, employers should consider implementing job-sharing for specific roles. Job sharing or work sharing is an employment arrangement where two or more people are retained on a part-time or reduced-time basis to perform a job normally fulfilled by one person working full-time. This enables multiple people to share the workload, which can reduce the stress and burden on a single employee.
Allow employees to utilize technology to work from home (telecommuting)
Advances in technology and new innovative strategies have enabled employers and employees to work anywhere and everywhere. Telecommuting allows employees to adapt work aspects to what is comfortable for them and about works for their specific situation.
Lead by example
Employees will model their behaviour after you: Do you take a lunch break? Do you email/respond after work hours? “I strive very hard to ensure that I do not send any work emails outside of work hours. I want my team to know that I value and respect their time,” shares Rachel Miller.
Set clear expectations about what is required when an employee is away, and encourage them to disconnect from work.
We want to hear from you. How do you blend work and the demands of your own life?
If you or someone you know is struggling with work-life balance, burn out, stress, or other mental health or personal wellness concerns, reach out to CPA Assist.
CPA Assist, the profession’s health and wellness program, provides confidential counselling to Alberta CPAs, candidates, and their immediate families. 24-hour confidential support is available (toll-free): 1.855.596.4222. Visit cpa-assist.ca for more information.