How Do Team Workloads and Team Staffing Affect the Audit? Archival Evidence from U.S. Audits
61 Pages Posted: 12 Jul 2019 Last revised: 7 Jan 2021
Date Written: January 7, 2020
We use U.S. data from a global accounting firm to investigate how two key elements of audit teams –workloads and staffing continuity – affect the audit. We find that heavier team workloads are associated with lower audit quality, particularly when team members have lower performance ratings or have total workloads that exceed 60 hours per week. In addition to finding evidence of employee burnout, we also document an incremental distraction effect. Specifically, we find that audit quality on the primary client suffers when team members spend more time during busy season on other concurrent clients. Regarding continuity, we find that greater year-over-year team staffing continuity is associated with improved audit quality, efficiency, and profitability. These effects are strongest when returning team members are highly rated or work in smaller audit offices. Finally, the effects of workload and continuity on audit quality at the team level are driven by audit seniors and audit staff, suggesting that offices should be particularly careful as they develop schedules for junior auditors. Overall, our study provides important new evidence about audit teams as called for by academics and regulators.
Keywords: audit teams, audit workload, turnover, audit quality, audit effort
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