6 minute read 30 Aug 2019
Flock of birds flying in the sky

How to find the secret ingredient that aids productivity and attracts talent

By

Karen Hochrein

EY Global Assurance Talent Leader

Audit partner with more than 30 years of experience across a number of sectors. Passionate about using skills to develop others. Enjoying the increasing pace of change and new ways of working.

6 minute read 30 Aug 2019

Vitality in the workplace can boost productivity, attract the right talent and improve quality. It is crucial to the future of the audit profession.

In a 24-hour, seemingly always-on culture where professional and private lives have increasingly become intertwined, how can employers create a renewed focus on their people’s well-being?

The importance of well-being has been building momentum among employers. Yet, this awareness needs to translate into tangible change so that employees can reap the benefits. In this context, I believe that “vitality” is the word we should use when considering health as it extends beyond a physical sense.

First, let us consider what we mean by vitality and why it is so critical. Vitality is defined as the state of actively maintaining personal well-being, energy and enthusiasm. Safeguarding vitality becomes increasingly difficult when we consider the demands and pace of modern working life.

In today’s increasingly connected digital world, our phones are never switched off, emails arrive 24 hours a day and we are often distracted by social media. It is difficult to maintain perspective and to take a break from the never-ending pressure. We cannot underestimate the power of sleep and disconnecting to counteract these pressures, to protect our well-being and help prevent burnout. 

In today’s increasingly connected digital world, our phones are never switched off, emails arrive 24 hours a day and we are often distracted by social media.

It is no overstatement to say that without energy and a healthy work-life balance, you will not be able to perform as effectively and do the best job possible. It may sound like common sense, yet it is something we need to remind ourselves and our people about.

The business case

The business case for a healthy work-life balance is simple and easy to argue. Vitality is key to productivity and exceptional client service. There are three further areas where it can have a profound impact: quality of work produced; extending and supporting career longevity; and attracting new talent.

Productivity and quality of work go hand in hand, and both are proven to increase when employees are healthy and focused. Quality of work also has a strong correlation to employees who are well-rested. Auditing, for example, is a detail-orientated and insight-driven profession where many decisions depend on the judgment of an individual.

In any profession, a sleep-deprived individual who has been working long hours is less likely to make the right call, and these decisions can, at times, be business critical. Similarly, the risk of burnout is a significant concern in these times, meaning that careers can be cut short and individuals put off entering some professions.

At EY, we are working to make sure that the concept of vitality is embedded into team structures and reflected in the culture, and that this in turn is translated appropriately across global markets. The EY organization is partway through the journey and in no way has the magic solution been found, but conscious steps have been taken toward promoting vitality.

These steps include:

  • Developing a vitality framework incorporating a range of factors to drive change and deliver on the work-life balance expectations of EY professionals
  • Taking a neuroscience approach to understanding how and when the brain works most effectively and what we can all do to make small but impactful changes
  • Changing the day-to-day experience through discussions with engagement teams

The auditing profession is changing and evolving rapidly, providing a unique opportunity to make sure vitality is embedded in new ways of working.

Auditors: one size does not fit all

It is a common misconception that auditors are all similar in their needs. One size does not fit all, and never will.

As a global EY organization with a broad framework that applies worldwide, each locality is addressed with sensitivity and awareness of cultural differences to create the right approaches. For example, in the UK and Australia a successful strategy has been implemented to help people look after their vitality, which brings more flexibility and remote working options for them.

The EY organization has challenged assumptions about where, when and how work gets done, while maintaining a clear focus on the results we want to achieve together. This is one of the ways to be agile and responsive to the diverse needs of EY professionals and all stakeholders.

The importance of flexible working conditions

Whether working flexibly helps people balance family demands so that they can do the school drop-off or be at home for dinner, compete at an Olympic Games (which has been an experience for far more EY people than you might think) or volunteer for local community projects, they know they have the support to use flexible working to help them achieve the best outcomes between their work and personal lives every day.

In Hong Kong the idea of working from home is not so attractive, as a consequence of the city’s makeup and restricted residential space. It is therefore important that policies are applied that reflect the distinct cultural and local factors that contribute to employee vitality. In Japan, as another example, a pilot is currently being tested where emails cannot be sent after 10:00 p.m. local time, which ensures a respite for people in a culture that is known for long working hours.

It is imperative for an organization to recognize that changing expectations need to be met with the right response. Teams are addressing the challenges of encouraging and facilitating flexible and remote working in an historically desk-driven culture by bringing partners even closer to the workforce. This helps professionals understand they support all kinds of flexibility, and empowers them to ask for it. This requires commitment to a culture where not everybody is expected to stay until leadership has left.

The digital deluge

Today’s culture can head in the direction of over-consumption and digital deluge. People are battling with the fear of missing out socially. With a 24-hour working culture, the distinction between personal and working hours can start to blur. To combat this issue, the EY organization helped build an understanding of the benefits of well-being for both mental and physical health.

A team of US Assurance professionals from across the country gathered to take a comprehensive look at how EY teams can enhance programs, build skills focused on finding the right work-life balance and identify tools that can be used to preserve well-being. The profession is changing and evolving rapidly, providing a unique opportunity to make sure vitality is embedded in new ways of working. It is important for people to feel they can disconnect and recharge, and the EY organization respects and encourages their need to do so.

Vitality is crucial to preserving the future of the auditing profession. It is critical that we build an environment and foster a culture that enables vitality and empowers the auditor of the future. There is no time to lose – it is essential that we all prioritize this conversation and collectively drive change.

This article was first published in Accountancy Age.

Summary

Vitality in the workplace is key to boosting productivity, attracting the right talent and improving quality. Without energy and a healthy work-life balance, employees will not be able to perform effectively and do the best job possible. Vitality is crucial to preserving the future of the auditing profession, and it is critical that we build an environment, and foster a culture, that enables vitality and empowers the auditor of the future.

About this article

By

Karen Hochrein

EY Global Assurance Talent Leader

Audit partner with more than 30 years of experience across a number of sectors. Passionate about using skills to develop others. Enjoying the increasing pace of change and new ways of working.