Finding Balance Through Flexibility
An Interview with Brooke Killion
Work-life balance is always tricky, especially when you’re in the process of pursuing a big goal. Having the flexibility to customize your workload is critical when you’re trying to make room for everything you value in life. We talked to Brooke Killion, Audit Senior in KEB’s St. Louis office, about the adjustments she made to her schedule that allow her to balance her role as an accounting professional with studying as she prepares for her CPA exams later this year.
Can you tell us about what inspired you to adjust your work-life balance?
I’m currently studying for my CPA exam, which takes hundreds of hours. It is a major time commitment, especially as I manage my responsibilities as a Senior Auditor. One of the Audit Managers told me she reduced her hours while studying for her CPA exam. I had stayed full-time during my Master’s, and she said, “I don’t know how you did it. I had to reduce my hours to study.”
What changes were you able to make, and how did those adjustments benefit you?
The most significant change was going from 40-hour to 32-hour weeks, which helped make more time for studying, but beyond just reducing the numbers, I could select my workdays which helped. I could have chosen to work four 8-hour days, but I decided to do five 6-hour days, so I typically work until about 2:00 pm, allowing me 5 hours to study in the evening. I come home, walk the dog, study for a few hours, stop to make dinner, and then study for a few more hours. That schedule lets me break up my day more and study more on workdays. The change didn’t affect my weekends much, but it allowed me to cut three months off my study plan.
How did this schedule come about? Did you have to request it?
KEB is very upfront about the option of reducing your hours because of something in life or work or for studying; it is always available. Every few months, they would check in and remind me that I had the option if needed. The firm wants to create a supportive culture and help you continue to grow in the company, and you can’t move past Senior without being a CPA. Currently, another Senior is studying for her exam, and our managers have said, “Brooke reduced her hours. If you feel like you need to do that, we can do it for you.”
Can you customize your work schedule for other reasons? Not just to pursue your CPA?
In any situation where you feel like you need to take a step back, the firm is happy to work with you so you can have the best work experience and best home life experience. I’ve had coworkers who have worked reduced hours while helping to care for a parent going through health issues, and another one of my colleagues takes Fridays off during the summer to be home with her kids. Since we are in the new fiscal year, my boss and I sat down and discussed what is coming this year, when I’ll want to expand my hours, and what overtime I want to work once I’m finished with exams. I volunteer for the St. Louis City animal shelter, so I’ll be able to spend more time there once I’m done studying.
Can you work remotely or hybrid?
Yes! In the St. Louis office, we work from home Tuesdays and Wednesdays, and you can work from home if you have an appointment or something comes up, whatever you need to, as long as you communicate it. We also have a senior who works entirely from home. So, they’re open to different arrangements as long as it works best for you and the firm and you’re getting your work done.
The hybrid schedule is good for me because whenever I’m in the office, I tend to stay a little longer, so adjusting hours down on the days I work from home is easy. KEB also has flex time, so as long as you work four hours, you can take the rest of the day off without using PTO. That is great for me because I’m from the suburbs of Chicago, so it takes extra travel time to visit family. I can work a half day on Friday and then drive to see them in the afternoon without having to take time off.
How has this change affected you, and are there other ways KEB is helping you pursue your CPA license?
Another way KEB has supported me in this goal is with financial incentives. You get a bonus when you pass your CPA, and your exams are paid for. You also get a raise and become eligible for a Manager role. KEB pays for your license and will even pay for framing your certificate. Frames for degrees are not cheap!
Overall, I’m much happier, and I get less stressed out choosing between work and studying. My mental health is much better, and my managers and the partners have all remarked that I seem happier to be around. Not many people in public accounting say, “I love my job,” but I genuinely love my job, and I think it is because of the people I work with and the company I work for.
Thank you, Brooke, for sharing your experience! KEB is committed to supporting our team members in finding a happy, healthy balance in their work and lives. For more information about career opportunities at KEB, please visit https://kebcpa.com/careers/
*This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity