But as they embark on their high-flying roles, they should perhaps reflect on a recently published report entitled The Paradox of Prosperity. Commissioned by the Salvation Army and conducted by the highly regarded Henley Centre the report suggests that by 2010 - when today's newly qualifieds will be entering the peak of their careers - many of the middle classes in this country will have material wealth 'beyond their dreams' but the human cost will be enormous. If you believe the report, in just over a decade's time, society will be in a state of flux rife with family breakdown, workplace stress and many suffering from alcohol and drug dependency. They estimate a staggering 90% rise in disposable income for middle-class professionals: the bad news is that you'll be far too busy earning it to enjoy it. The report says that the professional classes are under increasing pressure, working longer hours and suffering higher levels of stress. And, despite our material wealth, we feel we can't ease off - or even quit the rat race - because of the fear of penury in our old age. We are already paying the price for our careers and our standard of living. A recent survey carried out for the magazine Management Today asked; 'What is the single biggest personal sacrifice in your home life you have made for your careers so far?' Nearly a quarter of the survey - both men and women -said they had missed their children growing up, and the same number said they had put work before family. Many businesses - including professional services firms - are aware of these issues and are trying to take steps to ease the pressure on individuals and making sure they understand the need for a balanced approach to life and work. The Paradox of Prosperity suggests there is a glimmer of hope. It claims many people are feeling an increasing spirituality, not necessarily tied to formal religion, but shown by their determination to leave work at a reasonable hour to spend time with their family and by turning to yoga and other forms of relaxation and exercise. Gradually it is becoming acceptable and more mainstream for more than just disgraced politicians to say that they want to spend more time with their family. That's a thought accountants should maybe bear in mind when they fill in the timesheet or check how many hours they have put into the business this month. Peter Williams is a freelance writer and director of Kato Publishing.
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