“I can’t date during busy season; I get out too late every night.”
As a young accountant in a major firm, I got a front seat to the social tribulations caused by overly crammed work schedules. Despite numerous studies indicating that there is little to no gain in productivity to be had from putting in a 70 hour work week, the accounting profession remains enamored with binge working. As a “fringe benefit” of these fruitless work marathons, many a young accountant sees their social life evaporate over busy season.
I used to think that firms prefer staff without a social life so they can be squeezed for extra chargeable hours. I now realize that this would be attributing far too much planning and thought to the executive committees. Firms tend to operate on a SALY basis. There is very little attention given to the work schedule of employees, and the social life of staff is not even considered by the “work-flow” experts. On the contrary, firms now want us to work at home so that they do not have to provide enough desks for all their employees (flexibility is a convenient excuse). Talk about not getting out of the house.
In the world of productivity there has been a great deal of focus on taking breaks during work. Whether one subscribes to the Pomodoro method (5 after 25, and a full break after 2 hours) or some other scheduled work system, there is a clear benefit to down time. Unfortunately, the focus in these systems tends to be on the daily plan. I believe that a more comprehensive weekly approach to breaks is also in order.
For many employees, simply having a full weekend is enough of a plan. Accountants however, are not this lucky. We do not get full weekends, or any weekends in some cases, during our busy season. As a result, it is necessary for us to plan breaks for ourselves. We can, and in my opinion must, make one night a week (Monday through Friday, weekends should be a given), where we can leave the office early enough to socialize. I know some managers can be real jerks, but ultimately if this is important to us it can always be arranged. I can work one night a week from home so I can control the hours better. Or I can come early one day a week and make sure everyone knows about it. There are many options and they are only limited to our creativity.
Having one early night a week preserves much needed sanity, and allows for at least the minimum necessary dosage for socializing. Before letting myself say “this can’t be done,” or ”it’s not worth it,” I look around at the senior managers and directors around me and see how many could use a real social boost. Enough said. I can tell you it’s well worth it, and my productivity increased dramatically by using this strategy. Party on!