CFOs struggling to achieve elusive work-life balance - survey


CFOs spend two-thirds of their waking hours working, but would prefer if this was much less

CFOs spend two-thirds of their waking hours working and would prefer to be on the job much less than that, according to the Duke University/CFO Global Business Outlook. The survey has been conducted for 87 consecutive quarters and spans the globe, making it the world's longest-running and most comprehensive research on senior finance executives.


The survey suggests finance chiefs work nearly 70 percent of the hours they are awake,” said John Graham, a finance professor at Duke's Fuqua School of Business and director of the survey. “At the same time, the CFOs say the ideal work-life balance would involve working closer to 50 percent of waking hours.”


The preference to work fewer hours is pervasive, regardless of the current number of hours worked. Most CFOs who work 80 percent of waking hours would prefer to work between 50 and 60 percent, while CFOs who currently work 50 percent of waking hours would prefer to work 40 percent or fewer.


“The role of the CFO has widened over the last two decades,” Graham said. “CFOs are accountable for the bottom line as well as helping shape corporate strategy. One hopes that finance chiefs are not overworking themselves to the point of jeopardizing their health, which in turn could put the financial health of the company at risk.”


These trends hold across industries and around the world. The typical Asian CFO works 73 percent of his or her waking hours, slightly higher than CFOs in Europe (72), Africa (70) and Latin America (69). CFOs from all regions indicate they would prefer to work about 20 percent fewer waking hours per week.


Meanwhile, while African CEOs were marginally more positive in their outlook, the continent’s financial executives maintained a generally bleak view of the future of their businesses.


Business optimism in Africa increased 1 point to 53 this quarter, still the lowest in the world. Capital spending should increase by about 1 percent, and employment by 3 percent, in 2018. The biggest concerns for African CFOs are economic uncertainty, governmental policies and currency risk. Seventy-one percent of African CFOs say the pace of innovation has quickened, and among these firms 85 percent say they have increased capital spending in response and 62 percent have increased R&D. Nearly two-thirds of African companies indicate the rapid pace of change has led their firms to focus more on the short-term. Fifty-five percent say adhering to regulations crowds out long-term corporate investment.


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