In this study, we use a survey instrument to obtain perspectives from over 700 auditors about present-day audit workloads and the relationship between audit workloads, audit quality, and job satisfaction. Our findings indicate that auditors are working, on average, five hours per week above the threshold at which they believe audit quality begins to deteriorate and often 20 hours above this threshold at the peak of busy season. Survey respondents perceive deadlines and staffing shortages as two of the primary reasons for high workloads and further believe that high workloads result in decreased audit quality via compromised audit procedures (including taking shortcuts), impaired audit judgment (including reduced professional skepticism), and difficulty retaining staff with appropriate knowledge and skills. We also find that auditors’ job satisfaction and their excitement about auditing as a career are negatively impacted by high audit workload, particularly when the workload exceeds a threshold that is perceived to impair audit quality. Overall, our findings provide support for the PCAOB’s recent concern that heavy workloads are continuing to threaten audit quality and suggest that the primary drivers of workload (i.e., deadlines and staffing problems) might be the actual “root cause” of workload-related audit deficiencies.
Persellin, J., Schmidt, J.J., Vandervelde, S.D., & Wilkins M. (2018). Auditor perceptions of audit workloads, audit quality, and job satisfaction. SSRN Electronic Journal. doi: 10.2139/ssrn.2534492
SSRN Electronic Journal