CFOs Reveal: How many hours are CFOs working?

Just how many hours are CFOs really working in our hybrid world? CFO Magazine’s Nina Hendy set out to find out, and gather some tips for switching off.

Margarita Claringbold, CFO | Brosa

“I work around 50-60 hours a week, which is about the same as pre-Covid, but the hours are distributed a little differently in a hybrid world. I work more efficiently when working hybrid, as there’s little or no travel to work, or meetings.

Technology is helping the entire finance team, speeding up the time to produce and analyse business results, enabling me to identify emerging issues and take a proactive approach to managing these as and when they arise.

Tip: I’d suggest picking the things in your life that you value, and commit time to them. For me, this is prioritising my family and friends, so that I can fill up my tank and bring the best version of myself to work each day.”

David Watkins, CFO | JCDecaux Australia

“I don’t have a set routine or number of hours remote or onsite at the moment. I don’t expect to put a routine in place, and intend to manage flexibly to align with the best way to deliver in my role.

I am finding I’m working less under the hybrid model, as I have more flexibility around when I work, and can align my working hours with when I have the most energy to be productive.

Technology has supported our hybrid working approach at JCDecaux, and allows me to be connected when I need to, which enables me to be more effective when I work, and therefore less stress personally. There’s always a risk that more available time means you’ll fill it with non-critical work. For me, that’s something I challenge myself on daily.”

Tip: To achieve work/life balance, book your calendar out for recharge and exercise activities before you fill it with your work priorities and commitments. Make these activities a priority by putting them in your schedule.”

Ben Steinberg, CFO | Upstack

“There’s definitely a before and after for me. It is about September last year when I transitioned from the corporate world where I had worked for many years into the CFO of a wholly remote and globally distributed startup. I’m now transitioning from fully remote to hybrid, doing a day or two in the office a week.

I’m working roughly 25 to 30 per cent less hours in my new role, but the working window stretches out over a longer period, starting early to catch the New York afternoon, and staying up later to get sufficient European cross-over where our core team resides.

So while I’m working noticeably less hours, it’s offset by having to be available nearly all hours of the day, which is a common observation of my peers.”

Tip: My tip for anyone struggling with focus on maintaining balance in their working life is to read Deep Work by Cal Newport. For me, it’s about turning off all notifications and distractions and allowing myself the space to achieve work orientated goals in deep focus mode.

James Frayne, CFO | Felix

“I find that in the new hybrid world it is easier to commit yourself to longer periods of intense work when times are busy, but the flipside it is easier to break away from the normal routine when deadlines aren’t as pressing.”

Tip: Switching off has always been a challenge for those managing finance teams in a fast-paced environment. There is less of an environment change when working from home. Setting boundaries helps, such as no devices in living rooms, kitchens or bedrooms can help.

Xuehui Chiu, CFO | SAP Australia & New Zealand

“Since moving to hybrid working, rather than working more or less, I’ve been able to work more flexibly and I’ve noticed I have greater autonomy over my time. I am enjoying how I’ve been able to unlock more quality time for strategic work. However, I have also been mindful of the need to maintain strong connections with my team, and the added effort required to coordinate and recreate informal encounters in a remote working environment. It’s been a learning curve for all of us but definitely a lot of good has come from shifting our perceptions around ways of working.”

Tip: In my view, the secret to finding work/life balance is to have a flexible mind and to be proactively engaged in uncovering what works for you individually. It is important to understand your own boundaries and as life changes, be flexible enough to realign to stay true to what works for you.

Craig Swanger, CFO  Super Fierce

“I’m working around 50 to 60 hours now, which is the same as pre-Covid, but I’m far more effective, efficient and happier. Technology frees up time for the team, but also allows more immediate access to information and decision-making tools. That means less time in meetings, and more time helping the business, rather than just measuring it. In our business, we talk about ‘floating ideas’. Switching off not only lets me recharge, it also creates space for my subconscious to get to work on solving problems and creating ideas. It’s a win-win. Time outdoors with my kids and listening to political satire and comedies relax me best.”

Tip: Love work you do so that work is part of life you enjoy. And create space and time for the people you love. You’ll be a better leader, happier employee and more rounded human.

Ashley Davies, CFO | Slyp

“At the beginning of lockdown, I found I was working more hours as a result of the blurred personal and professional lines. I’ve since made a conscious effort to install boundaries around working hours.”

Tip: It isn’t always easy to strike a balance, but try shortening meetings to 20 minutes to 45 minutes where possible i.e. instead of 30m or 1h long meetings, and set designated no fly zone time to get some exercise, unwind and de-stress. By doing both, I feel more refreshed mentally and physically.

Jay Shong, Founder | Affinitive

“Currently, I’m working about 70 hours a week and we’re currently on full work from home basis. Personally I’m not working more or less as compared to pre-Covid levels, but technology does help free up more time for me in which I’m able to refill it with more tasks such as spending time in creating business strategies, improved business development and customer relationship, and spending more time to empower our team, which I didn’t do much previously.”

Tip: As a virtual CFO serving multiple clients, I always ensure that I spent time with my family from 5/6pm until 10am, and I will continue work plans outside of that. I also ensure I have a full day off every Saturday and a half day Sunday to have some personal time.

Peter Crewe-Brown, CFO | CFO Centre

“I’m working some long days, but only four days a week as a part-time CFO. I’m working fewer finance hours by focusing on using technology to work smarter, not harder.

Once a CFO throws out 20th century manual methods, opportunities to add value increase exponentially. A good example is ending a dependency on Excel for everything. Entering data once and letting tech produce dashboards, analysis and reporting is transformative.

My work life improves constantly as I focus on smarter, giving less time to finance and being more customer-focused and building effective relationships with the CEO and Board. Time management and tech are key.”

Tip: Apply a Kaizen approach to the functioning of finance – never stop looking for ways to improve efficiency. If you set it up right, the benefits are there every month.

David Dillon, President | Association of Virtual CFOs

“I’m definitely busier now than ever before, however that’s been driven by more client needs for visibility and the need to make informed strategic decisions, than by process.

Covid forced businesses to adapt and rethink the way they went about things, but also become the ultimate validation for remote working. Virtually every CFO became a virtual CFO there for a while. The biggest impact I’ve seen has been the acceptance by business owners of communication technology and virtual meetings, which allows virtual CFOs to get about and meet a lot more people in a much more efficient way.”

Tip: Use technology to bring efficiencies into your day-to-day tasks