• Career Center

    Reminder: Please Take Vacation So You Don’t Die

    By | October 8, 2015

    Grant Thornton recently offered its employees unlimited vacation time, which is a problem. The worry –- as Caleb is right to note — is that GT employees will take less PTO than before.

    If GT really got serious about employee health, and forced people to take vacation, they wouldn’t be the first place to consider it. You may be dynamic, GT, but you’re not that special. Neither is the USA. As it stands, the United States is the only country in the industrialized world that does not guarantee its citizens paid vacation. That’s right, just like student competence in math, science and amusing gameshows, Japan has beaten us. Again.

    Japan’s government is currently debating whether to force employees to take vacations. Why? TO SAVE LIVES. So many people in Japan die from overwork that there’s a word for it: “karoshi: death from overwork.”

    Studies show that most Japanese employees don’t take all of their allotted vacation time. In 2013, Japan’s Labor Ministry “found that employees only took nine out of an average […] 18.5 days of paid vacation. Another poll […] found that 1 in 6 workers took no paid vacation whatsoever.”

    The same extreme competition and work ethic that’s responsible for the original (and far superior to the American) “Ninja Warrior” has Japanese employees working themselves to death. Japan hopes to combat karoshi by forcing employees to take their allotted paid time off.

    If the country of Japan has to force its employees to take vacation to prevent overwork, surely US public accounting firms, whose propensity for inhuman working conditions is widely known, should consider a similar policy. Going Concern has long-pressed the issue of taking all your vacation days but it's worth remembering that time away from work can be life or death. If you continue down this overworn path of working like a cray-cray and not utilizing your paid time off benefits, you will probably die from overwork. Think I’m exaggerating? Let's review:

    • In 2011, a PwC intern died of acute cerebral meningitis after working 18 hour days and 120 hour weeks prior to her death. Average week of busy season. Though PwC vehemently denies that the long hours killed her, I’m sure ‘emergency room’ was not high on her list of priorities during that 120 hour workweek. The intern wasn’t even sleeping. "Of course there's the macho contingent inside these firms that say 'sleep is for the weak' and that's the kind of attitude that perpetuates the culture of 'getting the job done.' "
    • And karoshi isn’t limited to unfortunate accounting interns. In 2011, attorney Lisa Johnstone had been taking “the lawyer version of performance enhancers” (whatever that means) to survive 100 hour workweeks; her heart stopped on a Sunday night, and she collapsed and died on a pile of response briefs. She was 32. A 35 year-old attorney died a year later after working twenty hour days in the push to make partner. He didn’t take his vacation, nor did he make partner because he’s dead, you fools.
    • Even if you do survive to make partner before you die from overwork, you need to remember to take your vacation so you don’t die at work. In 2010, a BKD partner died of a heart attack in his office. But he isn’t even the first accountant to die in his desk. In 2004, a tax accountant in Finland died at his desk on a Tuesday. Nobody noticed that he was dead until Thursday – presumably because his coworkers were all too busy also working themselves to death. Death from overwork made international news yet again in 2013 when a Bank of America intern collapsed and died in the shower after working three 21 hour days in a row.
    • These examples don’t even take into account the devastating effect that overwork can have on mental health. Tragically, the suicide rate for finance workers is 1.51 times greater than average according to one study. Two bankers, in unrelated situations, threw themselves off buildings this year after working grueling jobs that required 100 hour weeks. Sadly, a Deloitte partner took his own life in 2012; one of the contributing factors in his death was work-related stress.

    The pressure to not only work hard but to work impossibly long and grueling hours is so intense, especially in a career like accounting that will take as much from you as you give it. Especially when a career that promises so much –- prestige, partnership -– it can be hard to take time away. But remember, you can’t make partner if you’re karoshi: dead from overwork.

    • *groan*

      • Man, you’ve been busy brosef. Good job.

    • TurtlyEnough

      I wish karoshi would hurry up and put me out of my misery, it sure is taking its sweet ass time

    • Tax Nerd

      One of my fears is that I’ll die at the office, and that will more or less define my life.

    • Chipman69

      I respectfully disagree – GT is both DYNAMIC and special!!! Besides, GT professionals spend their vacations itching to get their WHOLE SELVES back to work where they can penetrate new CHOSEN MARKETS with their INSTINCT FOR GROWTH!!!!!

      • Another exKPMGer

        I secretly wish that this really is Chipman just trolling on here.

        • ImposterSyndrome

          Wait, Chipman isn’t trolling?

      • AaronBalake

        Idk how this guy doesnt have a job in GT public relations

        • Mose Schrute

          Maybe he does work in GT public relations, or marketing…

          • AaronBalake

            I don’t like you.

    • Chris

      The shitty thing is we accountants put in the 100 hour workweeks like investment bankers but don’t even come close to six figure salaries (unless you’re manager or above and fuck them)

      • LessChatMoreHat

        What do you have against managers? We have a crappy lives too. Eat your time like the rest of us and GFY.

        • Chris

          My apologies. I actually have nothing against managers in general-I was extrapolating my hatred for my senior manager who is a massive jackass. This dude lives for 16 hour workdays and has given his life to public and expects everyone else to do the same.

      • taxintern

        I hate how people on here act like they had the OPTION to choose investment banking. the reason we get paid less for long hours, is because what we do isn’t NEARLY as valuable (we can’t charge as much) to companies.

        • Chris

          I definitely agree with you, which is why my choice to major in accounting under the presumption that it came with great pay and a nice career depresses me. I really should have done more homework while in school, but I was terrified of the work prospects due to the “Fuck you in the ass recession” that many of us suffered through while and in school and graduated into. Thus I focused on accounting to hedge my risk not realizing that the real risk was now working in a profession that blows for the foreseeable future.

      • IndenturedServant

        6 figures?

        bro, you’re gonna be real disappointed when you make manager

    • BasisPoints

      I don’t know anyone at the staff-senior level who has ever missed taking a single day of vacation (except those who knew they were quitting soon, were thus barely working anyway, and wanted a payout instead). If anyone is doing this, they’re fucking morons – your promotion to manager is guaranteed if you have a pulse and 5 years at the firm.

      Seriously, are these 100 hour workweek stories about accountants real? I mean, perhaps besides 1-2 weeks/year for some of the tax groups?

      This article is spot-on about the importance of rest and time off, however I’m not sure it applies at all to this profession (besides, apparently, one PwC intern). If it does, your team is comprised of foolish staff, foolish seniors, and sadistic, blinded-by-kool-aid managers.

      • Point and Clique

        My Big Four circle of anecdotes mostly vouches the 100-hour workweek stuff, but only at the NYC office. Then again, I’ve never worked there personally. But several NYC alumni have told me this bullshit goes on (separate stories), and my pals up there are regularly on at unearthly times of night far more than anyone else in my network. So I think there’s a little factual basis there, at least.

        Totally agree, though…there’s a great quote — “no one does anything they don’t want to do.” Some people, given the choice of working 100 hours or quitting the firm/relocating to a different office/etc. will just take the 100-hour week. Not me.

        • BasisPoints

          I do take it back somewhat; there were some dreadful stories about the hours at the EY Cayman office I heard at training from folks who worked there (apparently our group had ~25 staff and ~7 seniors at the time, that’s how bad attrition was due to hours).

          But seriously, I don’t know anyone staff-senior that pushed past 65 charged hours except a few friends in tax, and only then a couple times a year.

          Seriously, at the 100 hour mark, I could have literally been making IBanker salary… by working 2 audit jobs at the same time. 50hr/week was pushing it even at the height of season.

          • Shine

            I am in a relatively small group that has suffered some pretty bad senior attrition before the start of the fall busy season.

            We picked up a lot of campus hires because we’re short on staff, but half of our seniors quit.

            My billable has been 75-85 hours per week since the middle of August. I am not alone, every senior and acting senior in my group is working around or past midnight every night.

            I sometimes wonder if senior attrition is really that big of a mystery to management.

            My vacation accrual is maxed out to boot. I haven’t been able to take any time off longer than a four day weekend since the Christmas/New Years break.

            As far as the quote “no one does anything they don’t want to” goes… you are wrong. I don’t want to keep up 200% utilization, but I can’t quit in the middle of busy season.

            • Mosizl

              won’t*

            • Another exKPMGer

              This sucks. I hope you don’t own any pets, or if you do you have a significant other who works normal hours and can take care of them. And yes, you can quit in the middle of busy season, though typically this happens only when someone started interviewing prior to getting busy and the new employer drug their heels getting them started.

            • iamthelolrus

              You can’t quit in the middle of busy season? Oooooooohkay

            • LikeABoss

              why not? First of all, it’s october… october is not busy season. Second of all, if your firm is bullshitting you into thinking that times that are not busy season actually are busy season, it’s a ploy to get you to never quit. Thirdly, I’ve quit from two separate firms, both during busy season (one in february and the other in march), and it in no way has harmed my career. I know for a fact what my peers at the accounting firms were making, and I’m making a lot more than they are, and I’m at a solid 40 hour a week schedule now. Which means that our value as accountants is higher than the firms want us to think. It’s just business. Don’t forget, your first duty in life is to yourself and your family – not the firm, and not the other assholes at the firm who are dumber than donkeys for working at 200% utilization in fucking October. You will only enrich your life by getting away from morons like that.

            • iamthelolrus

              Honestly you could probably even get away with firm hopping there

            • LikeABoss

              Of course you can. It used to be taboo, now firms are just so desperate for people, they’ll hire anyone anytime.

            • Shine

              My busy seasons runs through April 15 and October 15.

              Also, to clarify, I’m not saying that I can’t quit during busy season out of some misguided sense of loyalty to the firm or because I think it’s taboo. I know that it happens and I am sure I can find another job were I to quit today.

              I don’t care about management, or partners, or the “business”. I can’t quit because inevitably my workload would just get passed on to the remaining seniors, who I do care about. Some people may find it outdated to care about ones colleagues, but that is who I am.

        • Chris

          I worked big 4 NYC metro – I can vouche for the 100 charge hour workweek, because I’ve done it…and it happened so often at our firm to many people that it was no big deal. Almost expected.

      • Another ExPwCer Now McGer

        I used to work in a midwest PwC office. I never hit 100, but i did hit multiple back to back 80+ hr weeks before I quit last Nov. This entailed working 7 days a week. I still have a few friends there and they instituted mandatory sat/sun work schedules last busy season and I’m sure ppl were close to 90 hours. They lost their entire newly promoted Sr. class at that office – wonder why.

        • Point and Clique

          Holy shit, a mandatory weekend work policy? Please tell me the loss of their entire S1 class fucked them over, hard.

          • Tax Nerd

            I’m sure it fucked over the second year staff who had to become acting seniors, while the partners just went about their weekend.

        • BasisPoints

          They brought it on themselves. I hope they lose clients over this, the partners truly would deserve it for this kind of cruelty

      • Otis

        I work fund audits which, depending on the complex, usually have 5-6 year-ends in a calendar year. Every audit requires at least 1 80+ and 2-3 70s. The nice thing is that if you’re a core member on the job then you won’t get picked up in the dead period (usually 2 weeks) between cycles as everyone knows you’re about to start another audit. It normally gives you 2 weeks of down time in between every cycle – all of which can be taken off without have to log a single day of vacation if you roll your time right. Last year I took a month and a half of “vacation” without have to burn a single vacation day.

    • Reasonable Assurance

      I know several people who ate vacation time. Hilarious.

      • Reasonable Assurance’s Broseph

        Eating vacation time is both nutritious and delicious, Broseph! Nom Nom Nom!

    • WorksLongHours

      I can speak to the truth of 100 hour weeks, at least in the NYC office at my old B4 firm. I left there to go to a PE fund where I worked 80 hour weeks. I left there to go to a hedge fund where I currently work 50 hour weeks. Life is infinitely better, and I still make almost double my S1 salary.

      • iamthelolrus

        Audit actually works 100 hours in NYC? I assumed that was bullshit because no one would actually do that for this salary

        • buthurt

          Talking to some of my friends with FS clients in NY – yes it can happen, although unlike a lot of the other cities they don’t have to drive as much so I guess it’s less likely to die in car accident on your way to/from work. Here in the midwest I’ve seen 80 hour weeks here and there with 15 hours of driving.

    • CeeKayCPA

      And now I feel really bad bitching about 50+ hour weeks.

      100+ hours – how?!

    • Mose Schrute

      I take all of my awesome vacation time because I’m awesome!

      • Chris

        And unfortunately (and unjustly) will likely be fired, passed up for promotion, or treated like a pariah because of it.

    • taxintern

      Have never seen someone actually work a 100 hour work week. Maybe 90 hours once or twice, ever. However, I’m in tax.

      I love how people compare the hours and say ‘we don’t make iBanker money.’ BECAUSE WE ALL DIDN’T CUT IT. We didn’t go to top tier schools, and we didn’t get recruited out of them to investment banking firms. So many people on this site act like it was some wrong turn they didn’t take but the fact is, you weren’t in that pedigree, you’re in state school public accounting, WAKE UP CHUMP.

      • Chris

        Yeah, I’m not buying the 120 hour week thing. I worked regular 75 hour weeks at my B4 internship in tax and I think the most I saw somebody pull was ~85 hours.

    • TunaMan

      Way cheaper for a company to offer unlimited PTO. You can just guess your PTO liability on the balance sheet.