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Stopwatch - tax time & motion study
Stopwatch - tax time & motion study

It is time accountants work-to-rule

2nd May 2019
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Perhaps it is time for accountants to begin working to rule. This proposal might seem like a radical idea but that may be more a sad comment on the state of society and the profession today than a reflection of its value.

Why not send a message out to all of your clients explaining that in future your office will be available to cater to their needs from 9.30 to 5.30 every Monday to Friday with the exception of, shall we say, a fortnight in August and a fortnight over Christmas when it will be completely closed.

While clients are welcome to contact you and colleagues on your mobile numbers whenever they wish, these will be turned off outside the aforementioned office hours. Readers can decide for themselves whether they wish to close for an hour between one and two on each working day.

Why is this radical? While few of us will be old enough to remember, it is likely that our accounting grandfathers would have operated on a basis very much like this, making enough money to buy nice houses, serviceable cars, and holidays in Spain.

There will inevitably be some upsides and downsides to this approach. Let us assume that your firm will be doing this unilaterally. If that is the case then you run the risk of losing business to rivals who are open all hours. Should they also have the good sense to follow such a fine example, then that problem would immediately fall away.

You will inevitably lose the odd client here and there. But across this writer’s career, he can think of very few occasions on which clients really needed to get urgent assistance outside normal working hours.

The usual reason that this happened was the macho attitude of solicitors who are trained to believe in carrying out all transactional work between 6pm and 3am for reasons that have never been clear to the world at large.

Some clients may also take considerable umbrage at your unwillingness to cater to their unreasonable desires, if not actual needs. Frankly, you’re much better off without them.

Realistically, most clients will probably immediately accept the changes without demur. As a quid pro quo, you and your staff may need to work flat out during office hours, which is probably not the case at present.

If your firm implements this modest proposal, you will be left with a much more enjoyable job, free time to pursue additional leisure activities and the prospect of a far less stressful and quite possibly longer life.

Put like that, we might all be struggling to understand why this isn’t the norm instead of an outlandish suggestion that is likely to be received with guffaws of laughter rather than positive action.

Replies (5)

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By Vaughan Blake1
02nd May 2019 16:59

Maybe it's me, maybe it's my clients, but I've never had an issue with clients expecting things to happen out of hours.

I've had a handful of potential clients ask about weekend /evening appointments, but after the initial meeting I have happily dealt with them via email.

We do 9 -5 and the clients accept this, it's not like we're the fire brigade!

Interested to hear other firms take on this.

Oh its 5.00pm, must go!

Thanks (1)
By ireallyshouldknowthisbut
02nd May 2019 17:42


If people call me or email me when i am not in the office, they find............I am not in the office...... and wait until I am.

Who the heck takes a work mobile home anyway?

I will leave clients who want a "weekends and evenings" service to those cowboying on top of their day job.

Thanks (1)
By stelf
03rd May 2019 10:57

I wonder if we often make the mistake of assuming that a client who sends an email outside of office hours expects an immediate reply. I think most send the email at a convenient time for them and expect a response during office hours.

Thanks (4)
By sash100
04th May 2019 00:14

I haven't got much of a life so to a degree I am flexible with my time so am available to clients when they need me. I might just take it easy during the day but work late.

Most clients do appreciate this service especially as they are terribly busy during the day trying to making a living in this harsh world. Only free time is the evening or weekends.

Thanks (0)
Della Hudson FCA
By Della Hudson
05th May 2019 09:55

Is this even an issue?

We ran a successful business based on 9-5 Mon-Fri and closed between Christmas and New Year. None of the team actually worked all of those hours because they were either part time or trainees. Even my own working week was only 25 hours.

Why does anybody need to work longer hours? Numerous studies have shown that productivity reduces with longer hours. We all need a decent work life balance to perform at our best.

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