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Accountants yearn for four-day week

3rd May 2011
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It seems that finance professionals are getting a taste for a more balanced lifestyle after the recent spate of bank holiday weekends. According to a recent survey, two-thirds of accountants would be happy to give up some of their salary to enjoy a four-day working week.

A survey of 2,882 finance professionals conducted by recruiter Marks Sattin found that 66% of respondents were more attracted by the prospect of a four-day working week and would be willing to sacrifice up to £11,000 a year to achieve a better work-life balance.

Only 6% said they are less attracted to a four day week than this time last year, while just over a quarter of respondents said they felt no differently.

Marks Sattin managing director Dave Way commented, “Appetite for a greater work-life balance is a sure indication that people feel more secure in their jobs.  Since the recession, people have had to knuckle down and work harder.  But as the economy picks up and there is less pressure on employers to make redundancies, people are increasingly prioritising a work-life balance. 


Replies (10)

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By Paul Scholes
03rd May 2011 23:24

Not just accountants

The New Economics Foundation predicted a shorter working week in its report in February last year:

See also:

With the abolition of compulsory retirement, higher unemployment (especially in the teen-twenties age group), increasing population and a workload that either can't keep pace or is unsustainable, given resource depletion, it doesn't make sense that a significant proportion of the population work 50+ hours a week and others none.

The problem is, how to sell it, how to sell the idea to someone who needs all that overtime to give it all up for more leisure and less pay? 

This is clearly a different situation to the one described with the accountants in the survey who can afford to lose £11K pa, or in my case where my spending has reduced to match my income, but the reasoning is the same, a fairer spread of work and non-work time.  Out of interest it would be interesting to know the age group of accountants prepared to give up their work, I'd guess most are 50+.

It will take a braver and less short-termist government than we have at the moment to start the ball rolling but if nothing is done we are set to repeat the same fluctuations in financial fortune the highs & lows increasing in severity.


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By cymraeg_draig
04th May 2011 00:58

....., it doesn't make sense that a significant proportion of the population work 50+ hours a week and others none.



Posted by Paul Scholes on Tue, 03/05/2011 - 23:24


Unfortunately - it does.

Quite simply with the current tax and employment legislation its cheaper to employ one person for 50 hours, than 2 for 25 hours each.



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By Red1960
04th May 2011 12:01

He's 'avin us on...

"Since the recession"

"people feel more secure in their jobs"

Marks Sattin managing director Dave Way


I've got to wonder what planet Mr Way inhabits because it clearly isn't this one.

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By Martyn Hodgson
04th May 2011 13:33

4 day week

Just seen Maxxy's tweet prompting me to join so hello everyone.

I'll come at this from a non employed angle, since I'm self employed. Given the amount of presenteeism, pointless meetings and politics that goes on in corporate life, could it be argued that many office based employees only do 4 productive days per week?

Maybe if those that only want 4 days per week were to outsource their services back to the company and step away from the politics, they'd get their day off per week and the company would get 5 days worth work...

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By Jekyll and Hyde
05th May 2011 13:19

That's exactly what I have started from February 2011

I decided to start working a 4 day week and in November 2010 wrote to all my informing them that my offices would be closed on Fridays and that due to current economic conditions and personal circumstances I have decided to reduce my working hours to a 4 day week.

My reasons were simple, 2 newly arrived daughters, more competition, more waste of time clients, reduction in stress.

The results to date, I have been able to sack my worst clients that were not proving me with profits, this was the ideal excuse and so far they will spread some of the free time. I have decided to put major marketing on the back burner (to be re-started in 2012) and hence de-stress and concentrate on proactive services for current clients. When the ideal client/work comes along, I am only too happy to work a Friday as I consider this to now be pure profit.

I have a moderate (except parenthood) lifestyle and once you have made the financial committment of reduced earnings, the rest actually fits into place.

I would also agree that as I am only working a 4 day week, I have to be completely productive on every job/every day and therefore decline a great deal of supplier meetings. As I have also reduced my working hours, any new clients must now also be viable and therefore as I am the bottleneck of my practice, it will enable me to recruit easier and quicker.

I believe this is a win/win.

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By Paul Scholes
05th May 2011 18:03

How refreshing

C-A, let's hope you start a trend, is that you in the picture at the head of the page?

Your comment about fee reduction and costs that follow, matches my own experience over the past few years.  In a similar way to the ideal of home ownership and resulting dream of capital appreciation that's peddled to those at the bottom (or below) the housing ladder, the ideal of business growth at all costs with expected welbeing is jaded, far too wasteful and past its 20th century sell by date.

The most difficult aspect in all this is judging what is enough and, once that's decided, my own ideal is "sustainable inertia" with a touch of doing less and "being" more.

Just to pick up on CD's comment over cheaper to employ someone for 50 hours etc... Over the past 25 years, in many instances, I have found it far more efficient and less stressful to run job shares in which two people working  say 15 hours each can cover the work of one person employed for 37.5 hours a week (but who probably does far more than that).  Cheap does what it says on the can, quality is far more beneficial.

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By cymraeg_draig
05th May 2011 23:25


Cheap does what it says on the can, quality is far more beneficial.


Posted by Paul Scholes on Thu, 05/05/2011 - 18:03


Thats fine in a small business - but it doesnt translate to the factory floor employing hundreds. Go and take a look at a car factory or for that matter, any mass production operation, and quality is almost irrelevent. They have a minimum requirement (ie bolting 50 wheels on an hour) and beyond that they want the cheapest they can find.


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By Paul Scholes
06th May 2011 08:28

I don't do or want "cheap"

This is 2011 not 1971, are you honesly saying that the car and other manufacturers do not strive for effeciency & quality in every part of the production process with "cheap" coming in third place?

Through better processes they can now employ one person, whereas before they might have needed 1.5 for the same process.  So the next stage is seeing whether that one person, who may be doing 20 hours overtime a week is best used, is s/he working at their best after 60 hours, will the last wheel they bolt on be secure? Could the work be better done employing 2 people at 25 hours each?

Then the bigger picture, do we "need" a new car every 1,2 or 3 years, if we could re-think our needs and wasted money then they wouldn't "need" to run their factories flat out 24/7.

If you don't understand or don't agree then what's the alternative?  Maybe the government could pass a law to create an 8th day a week?

You & I have covered this ground on other threads before, and so with the recent venom from the AV thread still fresh, that's all I have to say to you on the topic.

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Nigel Harris
By Nigel Harris
09th May 2011 20:11

Not that difficult

While there will always need to be a core range of people in a professional office at any time - you have to have someone to answer the phone, greet visitors, deal with technical enquiries, etc - the fact is that if a timesheet-based firm just needs 35 hours a week from its people, some would be happy to work those over 4 rather than 5 days, and I don't have a problem with that. If you work on a fixed fee/value pricing basis, again it's just a matter of getting the work out the door in 4 rather than 5 days.

What I do have a problem with is putting unreasonable pressure on professional staff to complete work in unreasonable times. This simply results in people working 40 or 50+ hours a week, recording just 35 on their timesheets and going home at 7.30pm on a Friday completely burned out!

In other words, with better time management and more realistic fee levels, many staff could work more or less the same hours they work now for just 4 days and achieve the same result.

All this is nothing to do with work-life balance. It's down to many accountants just being rubbish at managing staff and clients and under-pricing their services. And I'll admit I'm one of them (but I'm working on it!).

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By paul_scotland_5
15th May 2011 20:14

2 part time employees

How is that then?   There would be employer's NI savings for a start if there were 2 part time employees.  Think again dude.

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