Accountants enjoy good work/life balance, despite longer hours

British accountants are working longer hours than they were two years ago, but they still enjoy a better work/life balance than most other professionals, according to a survey by recruitment firm Robert Walters.

The survey included 1,420 professionals across a range of disciplines, including finance, HR, IT and legal. It revealed that 26% of accountants work more than 50 hours per week, compared with 20% in 2011.

This was less than the UK average of 28% of full-time professionals, which was up from 19% two years ago.

The study says that accountants enjoy among the best work/life balance of UK professionals, as measured by weekly working hours.

Accountants, as a group, worked 44.3 hours per week, which was less than sales people (47.9 hours), lawyers (45.9 hours) and marketers (45.6 hours). Only compliance professionals (42.6 hours), IT professionals (43.7 hours) and secretarial staff (40.4 hours) worked fewer hours. The national average was 44.6 hours.

“The fact that working hours have increased over the last two years highlights how finance teams are being placed under greater pressure and workloads are rising,” Andrew Setchell, director of accountancy recruitment at Robert Walters, said in a news release. “But, in keeping with what accounting professionals tell us what they are looking for when searching for new jobs, they are still generally retaining a relatively good work/life balance.”

Loyalty points

Favourable hours may partly explain why the majority (59%) of accountants and finance professionals believe they should stay at a business for at least three years.

This was more than marketers (43%), risk specialists (45%), IT workers (51%), HR professionals (48%) and compliance experts (48%). However, more lawyers (68%), sales people (67%) and treasury officers (64%) showed three-year loyalty.

“The fact that accounting professionals don’t like to move around too often is indicative not only of their loyalty to their employers, but also of their preference to seek career progression internally,” Setchell added.

“This is primarily because finance specialists – whether part or fully qualified – like to make valuable long-term contributions over a sustained period of time and value consistency, stability and longevity on their CVs.”

Moderate self-worth

Nearly two-thirds (64%) of accountants and finance professionals believe their contribution to their business is “very important”. This was less than lawyers and sales people (69%), risk professionals (68%), and HR, marketing and operations executives (each with 66%).

Accountants were also amongst the most modest professionals when asked if their personal achievements impacted their business; 67% agreed, compared with 100% of treasury officers, 91% of sales people and 87% of project managers.

The study found that accountants were not hugely motivated by money; only 40% considered remuneration and benefits as important to job satisfaction. This compared with 57% of projects managers, 55% of sales people and 53% of lawyers.

An interesting day-to-day role was important to 49% of accountants, well below 67% of marketers and 57% of IT professionals and lawyers.