Work-life balance is one of the key things we all look for when deciding on our chosen career path, but inevitably there are going to be times when you have to miss out on some social pursuits to put in a few extra hours at the office. It is therefore highly appropriate that I write this blog in the office at 9pm, having forgone my usual Thursday ritual of having a beer and watching the darts in order to complete a particularly stubborn section of an audit file.
From the audit side, I’ll give you a realistic perspective of our business cycle. Many of our clients prepare their accounts to a December year-end and require these to be audited before submission to Companies House, usually within 6-9 months of that year-end. With the number of staff in the department broadly remaining the same during the year, do the maths and you can see that the first six months of the year are going to be busy.
With deadlines to meet for clients, ‘busy season’ can mean that the time on the planner for a particular audit (i.e. 9-5.30 time) doesn’t actually reflect the amount of work that needs doing. From experience of a client in a previous year you might know you need to put in some overtime in the evening to get the job done within the allocated time. Or there could be a delay in a client sending you some information, putting you behind and leaving you needing to complete work when you are booked to another client. I’ve particularly found the latter a challenge over the last few weeks and it is a sharp lesson in managing your time well. It is important to prioritise deadlines to ensure you can still deliver to that client when you’re out on-site at another client and need to maximise the time you have.
Of course, as a trainee you also need to set time aside to study during the busy period. Now if you’ve put in over 50 hours at work Monday to Friday you might be wondering where you are going to find the time. Weekends is the obvious answer. There is no getting away from it that when things ramp up you might have to miss out on going to the pub on a Sunday afternoon to fire out some practice exam questions. That’s not to say you can’t make time to catch up with friends and family, again it’s just a case of good forward planning to make sure you can fit everything in. Being able to do this and having more than one focus at once is probably the most important thing I have learnt to do in my 18 months with the firm.
Those in our team who are already qualified often stress to me the importance of preparing thoroughly for your exams and are brilliant when the workload gets too heavy along with college. They’ve been in your shoes and want you to do well, thus the burden of overtime is shared throughout the team to allow you some evenings free to hit the books. It follows that as you take on more responsibility and have passed your exams, you will then do the same for the next group of trainees coming through. This comes back to being able to prioritise to ensure both professional and personal goals are achieved. The camaraderie and sense of everyone pulling together is what gets you through difficult times when it seems you will never get files finished. No footballer wants to score an own goal for their team do they?
The busy season makes you appreciate what a work-life balance actually is, and it isn’t about going home at a certain time every day! We roll our sleeves up when we need to but balance this out in the summer with time away from the laptop, enjoying some good weather and a sense of achievement that we gave it our best effort.
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