Accountants hit productivity stride before lunch

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If you’re firing on all cylinders and whittling down your to-do list, perhaps you should check the clock. Chances are the time is 11am.

New research from R&D specialists MPA Group surveyed 1,000 UK office workers from across various sectors and found accountants feel at their most creative in the late morning.

It’s no wonder accountants hit their productivity stride at this time. In a world where emails ensnare our first working thoughts, the time when you’re feasibly able to reach the end of your intray is getting later and later.

For many in the profession, once they've stepped foot in the office, fuelled up on coffee and tackled the overnight inbox, the hands on the clock are likely to have hit 11am.

In terms of the survey, accountants fall somewhere near the end the average peak hours across all industries, which come between 10am and 11.30am.

As a comparison, journalists are the earliest to hit their peak productivity at 9.48am, while doctors are at the other end of the scale, finding their groove at the tummy-rumbling time of midday.

The results of the study reflect the daily routines of some of the accountants featured on AccountingWEB’s Practice Talk, such as Sharon Pocock. She has wisely chosen Monday at the start of the peak productivity window for her weekly strategy meetings, ensuring engagement from staff rather than the absent-minded doodles she might have found from her team had she organised them on, say, a Wednesday afternoon.

Is 11am really the most productive time?

AccountingWEB readers must have landed in a different productivity time zone, though. Responding to the research, Fiona Howells said 11am was when she started to think about her lunch.

While Lone_Wolf lived up to their moniker and seemingly awakes with the moon. “For me it comes and goes randomly throughout the day,” they wrote on Any Answers. “[There is] nothing worse than when your brain starts working just before bedtime and you get to think about tax whilst staring into the darkness.”  

Meanwhile, AccountingWEB reader 2003bluecat disagrees that productivity is time-dependent but rather contingent on the ambience of the office. Their peak productivity is before 9am because there is no one in the office and no clients are calling.

It’s this peace and quiet that makes the period between Christmas and New Year’s Eve so fruitful for the AccountingWEB reader. “The office is empty and more often than not I have a lot of tax returns to do - nothing like a bit of time pressure to focus the mind.”

Office environment is just as important

This response mirrors the preference of the research respondents of working in a quiet office. Much to the chagrin of the lone supporter of an office radio, only one in seven felt creative in an environment where music was playing.

The design of the office was also found to be as conducive to productivity as office noise levels. Comfortable 'break out' spaces and colourful or vibrant walls were also rated as encouraging innovation amongst the respondents.

Many accountancy firms are already taking the lead from the beanbag culture of Silicon Valley tech firms and are splashing their office walls with a paintbrush. Again, Sharon Pocock has a break out room with a bright coloured sofa and on the wall is the Simon Sinek quote: “Listen to your drum and your drum only. It’s the one that makes the sweetest sound.”

But fear not, if time has passed 11am and you’re working against a deadline, inspiration can strike at any time or place. For AccountingWEB reader Bernard Michael, it’s in the pub in the evening.

About Richard Hattersley

Richard Hattersley

Richard is AccountingWEB's Practice Editor. If you have any comments or suggestions for us get in touch.

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