What Is Work-Life Balance Anyway?

A person balancing on a log while walking through the forest.

Yesterday, we discovered a “holiday” that had flown completely under our radar - National Relaxation Day! As made-up holidays go, this is one that gets our wholehearted approval. CPA firms and nonprofit organizations both have a reputation for long hours and high stress; so you might think that a nonprofit accountant would have it twice as bad. Fortunately, our firm is founded on the not-so-crazy concept of a true work-life balance.

But what does that really mean? The phrase “work-life balance” has been applied towards everything from office yoga sessions to telecommuting. Is it more “balanced” to stay at the office until 9pm, or to spend your child’s soccer game answering emails from your phone? Where is the line between being able to work anytime, anywhere - and being required to? What’s the point of taking a vacation if you can’t leave the office behind? As the workplace becomes more technologically connected than ever before, these are important questions to address. At its core, we believe that work-life balance is about flexibility, passion, and sharing the load.

Be Flexible - But Draw Boundaries Too

Flexibility in the workplace can come in many forms. Taking an afternoon run to clear your head, walking your kids to school every day, or feeling motivated to tackle that big report after everyone else has gone to bed - these are the opportunities fostered by a flexible working environment. When they’re not visiting their nonprofit accounting clients, many of our employees work from home offices. They’re free to adjust their schedules around their families and other responsibilities, as long as they’re meeting or exceeding our (admittedly high) standards of service. But with that freedom comes a dilemma. Do you answer a call while sharing dinner with your family? Do you check your email during your son’s school play? No one can draw these boundaries for you, so you must find that line yourself.

Find Joy In Your Work

You don’t need to adore every single aspect of your job, but you do need to be passionate about it. Whether it’s the simple satisfaction of a job well done or a lifelong commitment to a cause, there must be something that makes it more than “just work.” We might not be passionate about calculators and spreadsheets (well…some of us are) but we are passionate about helping nonprofit organizations create good in the world. For us, that’s more than enough reason to keep going when things get tough.

Ask For Help When You Need It

Let’s make this clear - you did not get bit by a radioactive spider, you are not from planet Krypton, and you cannot shoulder the weight of the world alone. Nonprofit leaders are notoriously bad at asking for help, and CPAs aren’t much better. Delegate, develop solid systems and backup plans, reach out to experts when you’re unsure. It does no good to have a strong team if you’re not willing to trust them and share the load.

We know far too many accountants and nonprofit leaders alike who struggle to stay balanced. Both sectors have a culture that elevates workaholics; after all, the more hours you work, the more productive or effective your organization will be…right? Wrong. Fortunately, this mindset seems to be slowly changing. We’re seeing more nonprofits placing emphasis on a healthy workplace culture and more accounting firms embracing quality over quantity. You simply can’t do everything all the time. But it’s possible to be both productive and balanced if you focus on the things you care about, build in a little wiggle room, and always, always ask for help when you need it.