Have your ever wondered why accountants spend such long hours at their desks each day? Certainly, it is widely believed that people working in the accounting profession spend long hours carrying out their tasks, which can be a deterrent for some thinking about accounting as a career. However, outside of some critical periods, such as an audit exercise or the annual budget, the hours really do not have to be long. In fact, with proper planning and preparation, audits and budgets can be completed seamlessly and within shorter time frames.
Here are some issues that lead to the long hours which are largely brought about by poor planning, poor communication and ineffective management:
Lack of coordination between the accounting department and the IT department, especially on new products or services, change of rates and fees, or implementing new modules to address the operation of the business. This results in mapping issues between accounts, and ultimately several corrections when the errors are detected.
Inexperienced accounting staff and the transitioning of staff within the accounting department. It is well-known, training and developing people for different roles can take time, hence during the process, correction and monitoring may be needed as they progress along the learning curve.
Regulatory environment, which often requires more reporting and manpower, may not be adequate to do the day-to-day work and produce the reports on time. This challenge may also be greater where there is limited automation, as the report preparation may be time-consuming and prone to various errors.
Ongoing changes coupled with poor communication often result in poor implementation. This may lead to the need for major corrections, which can take many hours.
Incorrect accounting treatment which must be later corrected for the audit to be unqualified. This arises especially where the treatment is open to interpretation, and the organisation’s interpretation is far different from that of the auditor, or where the treatment is not applicable to the organisation’s operation but choose to implement the change.
Insufficient time being arranged for audits and budgetary exercises. In such cases, the staff must double their efforts to meet the targets.
Failure to do ongoing preparations for financial audits and budgetary processes, leading to last minute preparation and undue stress for the accounting staff.
Where actual results are far from budget, greater analysis and research is needed to justify the reasons for the differences and how they will be addressed. This can be very time-consuming.
Major delays in the implementation of changes in a timely manner – for example, those changes announced by government, dictated by the board of directors, or recommended by the International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS).
The accounting staff often provides corrections to the errors of other departments, and this can take time to detect and correct. Very often the accounting staff is delayed by other departments, as quite often, deliverables are submitted at the end of day in order for accounts teams to get in motion.
Fast-paced environment, where the management and board of directors often require information within a short time frame, can result in staff putting in longer hours to meet those demands.
Undertaking several projects throughout the year, especially where they overlap, can result in accounting staff spending longer hours on the job. These include automation of certain processes, reviewing selected aspects of the business, or assessing the performance of a product for implementation, revamping or discontinuation.
In the spirit of bringing a solution to this grave matter, a collaborative approach must be adopted to minimise the long hours being experienced by accountants. This will create a win-win opportunity for the accountant to use his or her energy to assess, review, or transform other critical areas of the business. When accountants have more time, they can be more supportive to other departments. Furthermore, greater attention can be given to working with the project team to properly plan, communicate and implement changes. Spending long hours on the job without proper balance is unhealthy for anyone, therefore, as the long hours are addressed this can only result in the overall enhancement of the welfare of accounting staff.
Rakar Williams, FCCA, FCA, JP is a chartered accountant with doctorates in business administration and ministry, coupled with over 22 years’ experience in leadership and management of leading organisations in Jamaica. He is the secretary for the local chapter of the ACCA, member of the Public Sector Committee and the Audit Practices Committee of the ICAJ, and the financial controller for Mayberry Investments Limited.
(Content courtesy ACCA)