Ask the Firms, 2022

Evening view from West Seattle towards the city

Balancing Life and (Accounting) Work

In our annual Ask the Firms series, we try to focus on subjects that accounting students and prospective accounting students are interested in. In the past we’ve asked firms questions about what makes their firms a great place to work, professional standards for a remote world, and advice on the recruiting process.

Perhaps because of the restrictions we’ve all faced over the past couple of years, there’s a renewed interest in maintaining a healthy balance of life and work.   Since the field of accounting has often been associated with long hours, students want to know they aren’t about to give up their lives to start their new careers.

So, I posed this question to our Seattle area accounting firms:

Some Accounting students share with me that they are concerned about losing their work/life balance at their future firm. How would you address this concern?

From Susan Sherbak at EY

At EY our teams are thoughtful about focusing on wellness and having conversations about how we’re taking care of ourselves; I asked Olivia Virgin, Audit staff and UW Alum share her experience related to work/life balance: “During a normal week, I’ve been able to work flexibly. If I’m not missing meetings, I can start my day whenever works for me, take breaks throughout the day for appointments, exercise, meals, etc., and log off earlier or later depending on what I need to get my work done. During busier times, I try to work a similar schedule to my team so we can be efficient, but I’m still encouraged to set flexibility goals for the week. I have been highly encouraged by the leaders above me to make sure I have my vacation time scheduled, even if I don’t know what I’m going to do with it yet. It’s easy to work all the time, so it’s important to set boundaries and flexibility goals for yourself and communicate those to your team so that they can help you stay on track.”

From Vlada Edwards at CliftonLarsenAllen LLP

Public accounting provides an environment where it is up to you establish the boundaries and time that you allocate to work and to your personal time. Work/life balance to me is not like a balancing scale – you will never be in an actual balance. Some days you concentrate more on work (due to deadlines or spending more time with your team to connect) and some days you spend time doing other important things in your life (e.g. attending graduations, birthdays, or just going on a walk). The most important thing is knowing what you want your life to look like and working with your team/place of work to achieve this. My observation is that companies and their policies constantly evolve and become more flexible. Communication of your work/life balance is very important early on in your career. You, and only you, are in charge of your career – let those who have an impact on your career know what your vision of it is

From Emma Whipple at Armanino

It’s hard to escape that Tax and Audit have a busy season. However, accounting can open different doors for you, and it provides a level of job security you might not find in other industries during an unstable economy.

Here at Armanino, we tend to operate like a start-up. Things move fast, every day is different, and you will constantly learn new things or be on diverse client projects. For our employees, we provide a hybrid work schedule and unlimited PTO. Because of this flexibility, you’ll remain engaged at work by making friends and getting involved in many of our fun initiatives through the firm. For example, we have our volunteer vacations where our employees can go volunteer with their colleagues and the firm pays for 75% of the cost! All of which aid in preventing burnout and stabilizing that work-life balance.

If you enjoy your accounting classes, there’s a path for you. There’s no one size fits all anymore.  In the end, it boils down to knowing yourself and having the reassurance that there is a firm out there that will be the best fit for you!

From Erica Freund at CBIZ

“Busy season”. Hearing those words as an accountant can be enough to make some work up a sweat, anticipating the long hours and work hardships. Although a career in accounting is one of the most rewarding pathways to choose, we recognize that it does come with a stigma: all work and no play.

In enters CBIZ- with a mission to smash the stigma. We do this by keeping our core values at the center of everything we do. For example, we are OneCBIZ, and ensure that we support each other as coworkers and community through National Learning webinars and more. We do the right thing by taking part in annual volunteering days, uniting to give back to our local communities. Other companies may say that people matter, but we work to ensure that ours truly do by offering corporate programs that actively support DEI/mental health initiatives, and weeks of vacation time so our workers feel recharged, not drained, from work. We have many loyal employees who have stayed so long because of our “we expect to win” mentality, but they still have a sustainable work/life balance that allows our team to be fully dedicated to the success of our clients.

Alicia Hahn Moss Adams

Everyone’s work life balance is different, you have to make sure you’re communicating your needs and setting boundaries. Employers are evolving with the hybrid model, there is more autonomy/flexibility than ever, but there is still ownership on you to manage your schedule. Also, we recommend working for a firm that talks about and promotes their work life balance. That is a good sign that they value that internally.

Brandon La, at KPMG

Given the nature of our business, the needs of our clients naturally ebb and flow throughout the year, which, in turn, means some quarters are busier than others. It really just depends on the client and their business. During the busier periods, our professionals are expected to have more flexible work schedules to meet the demands of our clients’ businesses. But, when times are slower, we’re encouraged to focus on the important people and events in our lives. One of the ways the firm encourages us to find balance is through the KPMG Summer Jumpstart Program, which allows us to “jumpstart” our weekends two hours early on Fridays at 3:00 pm. Beginning Memorial Day and ending on Labor Day, our professionals can use the extra weekend hours to enjoy more time with their families and do the things they love. KPMG truly believes in work/life balance, but to achieve that balance, you must consider a few things, such as:

  • How comfortable you are establishing and communicating reasonable boundaries
  • Your team’s ability to respect those boundaries
  • The business needs of the firm and our clients

I believe that the firm and your team are responsible for fostering a space where our professionals feel comfortable enough to speak up and set those boundaries. But, ultimately, it’s our responsibility to determine what proper work/life balance means to each of us as individuals.

Brooke Borns at Frank Rimerman

Keeping a strong work life balance in your career in accounting is key for long-term success, both in your personal and professional life. When asked for advice around this topic, our Frank Rimerman first-year Associates shared some strategies that have worked for them.

Starting at the beginning, make sure to choose a firm that prioritizes their people and treats all employees with respect. This can be difficult to gauge during an interview but spend some time looking up each firm’s values and getting to know people from different departments before committing to any job offer. Secondly, communicate openly and frequently with whatever team you work on. If you choose a firm that puts its people first, there will always be team members around to offer a hand or support taking some much-deserved PTO. Lastly, maintain the hobbies you’ve enjoyed while in school! This could be intramural teams, art classes, hiking, or any other activity that gives you a total mental break from your workday. It may seem difficult to keep these up when you first start full-time in any career, but the balance it will give you ultimately pays off.

Carrie Willis at Clark Nuber

Work-life-balance has always been of huge importance to Clark Nuber.  Being a well-rounded individual is an important part to life satisfaction, job satisfaction, and ultimately leads to exceptional client service. Built into Clark Nuber’s culture has always been flexibility around core working hours and the encouragement for employees to log off at the end of the day and focus on what’s important to them.

Some ways Clark Nuber commits to our focus on work-life-balance are:

  • Serving a variety of industries to even out workloads
  • Team meetings to re distribute workload
  • Time management and organization tools
  • Flexible time off to use as needed at your discretion
  • Flexible work locations

Our employees also share a variety of shared interests outside of work that help add balance the work week. Happy hours or movie nights, office sports teams, and book clubs are just a handful of ways our employees break up the week. Clark Nuber also encourages entry level employees to focus on this balance from the beginning of their career. Our Talent Advisors work closely with Associates to ensure they are not experiencing burn out and setting those boundaries with their schedule to work most efficiently.


Learn more about the Master of Accounting programs at the University of Washington’s Foster School of Business.

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