Accounting firms are prioritizing work-life balance as they face a 'human capital issue' -- even during tax season

Lizzy McLellan Ravitch, The Philadelphia Inquirer on

Published in Business News

Molly Kowal decided to become an accountant in part because she knew it would be a stable career. After graduating from college in 2021, she saw friends in other fields struggling to find work but knew she would be able to find a job.

But that doesn’t mean she’s willing to work into the wee hours during busy season.

“My generation is more focused on maintaining that work-life balance,” said Kowal, who works at accounting firm EisnerAmper in Philadelphia. “A lot of people aren’t OK with the demanding work hours that maybe previous generations have been OK with.”

Ha Pham, who graduated from college in 2019, knows what those hours can be like. She used to work at Deloitte, sometimes clocking upward of 100 billable hours a week during busy season, and she noticed high turnover among both new colleagues and those with experience. That added to the workload for those who remained. She resigned about 10 months ago.

“I left because at some point I didn’t feel like myself,” Pham said. Last summer she became a tax accountant at wealth management firm Stonehage Fleming. “The workload is definitely a lot more manageable,” she said.

The 2024 tax and audit season, which generally stretches from mid-January to mid- or late April, hasn’t been quite as challenging as it was in pandemic years, industry experts said. But the accounting field is still in the midst of a talent shortage that’s causing some firms to turn down clients during busy times.


It’s pushing accounting leaders to consider new ways of operating their firms, as young talent gets frequent outreach from competitor firms and recruiters.

“We’re a couple of years into this human capital issue,” said Jen Cryder, CEO of the Pennsylvania Institute of Certified Public Accountants (PICPA). And the problem has become more severe for employers that didn’t adapt.

“The firms that have taken it seriously in the last four years made significant changes, implemented technology, and really thought about ‘How do we make this a great place for our people to be?’ have far less of a talent crisis right now,” Cryder said.

Finding flexibility and efficiency


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