Latest News

71% of Big 4 auditors worry about mental health

Written on Apr 25, 2024

A new global survey reveals work-life balance to be the most critical factor affecting talent attraction and retention in the audit profession. 

The Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) polled 6,574 finance professionals, mostly current, former, and would-be auditors. A strong majority (61%) identified their perceptions of auditors’ work-life balance as a negative factor in attracting and retaining audit talent. 

Far behind that result were remuneration and career ladder, which 37% and 28% of survey participants, respectively, identified as negative factors. 

The audit profession’s perceived impact on practitioners’ work-life balance “translates as the expectation of long working hours, especially during busy seasons, which induce stress and anxiety,” ACCA said in its survey report. 

The situation is worst at Big Four accounting firms. Almost three-quarters (71%) of survey takers who work for them said they feel their mental health suffers because of work pressures. Additionally, 51% of them said they’ve considered resigning from their job because of wellbeing issues. But those at the Big Four are hardly alone; many auditors, wherever they work, feel similarly. 

Referring to open-ended comments about audit firms by survey participants, ACCA wrote, “We received comments highlighting worrying instances of workplace bullying, sexual harassment, racism, and a glaring lack of diversity.” 

There is an “urgent need for change in the audit profession,” according to the study report. 

If those employing auditors truly wanted to improve their work-life balance, they might reconsider where the work takes place. More than half (52%) of survey participants said they work full time in an office, while 41% have a hybrid situation featuring a mix of office and home-based working. However, a hybrid arrangement would be preferable for three-quarters (76%) of them. 

Two-thirds (66%) of the respondents said they are more productive when working from home. However, they were roughly split equally on the question of whether working remotely makes team collaboration harder. 

ACCA offered some recommendations for improving the work-life balance companies that employ auditors: 

  • Invest in advanced technologies to ease the workload. “Firms of all sizes can benefit from using generative AI software,” ACCA said. 

  • Be more transparent in advance regarding busy-season working hours. 

  • Make work-life balance initiatives more visible internally. 

  • Spearhead a cultural shift: Employers of auditors “need to take purposeful actions … by establishing and enforcing internal policies to address issues such as workplace bullying, sexual harassment, racism and lack of diversity,” ACCA wrote. 

The accountants’ organization added that enhancing mental-health support systems “should be considered essential.” 

Related Upcoming Events