How to Audit (Part 8): The Audit Room

Busy season is upon us. Auditors will leave the safety of the office and go out to the client. They will be given a conference room from which to work. Often, it will be too small. But it becomes a second home as more time is spent there than in bed. This is the audit room.

The Facts

This blog post will dispel the myths about the audit room. And it will provide useful advice.

1) Watch your back
I’m not talking about other auditors stealing your stationery. Audit rooms come with a health warning. The long hours unadjustable conference room chairs and high tables means your back takes severe punishment. The audit room air gets stale. Some trainees say that their eyesight gets worse after some time in audit. However, I consider this to be an urban myth.

Exercise is the key. However, long hours sap the will to exercise and, when combined with frequent snacking, means that it is easy to grow your waistline. Why does busy season have to come after Christmas?

2) 200 cm2
This is the average table space you have to work with. It has to fit your: laptop, mouse, working papers, coffee, pens and arms. Audit rooms get cramp. There is no easy answer. Not using a mouse increases the risk of RSI (repetitive strain injury). Using your lap doubles working space but hurts the neck. Stopping coffee reduces audit efficiency by 110.5%.

3) Fun
The audit room should be fun and usually is fun – at least when working with me. Their is plenty of banter, gossip, amusing reconciliations and the knowledge that, although the work is hard, everyone is in the same situation.

For the bored auditor, there is a list of fun activities:

    • Mass email chains involving the whole year. It says nothing useful. The aim is to get 100 unread emails in the 10 minutes that someone has walked away from their desk. This provokes angry reply-all responses asking to be taken off the email chain.
    • Sending emails from an unlocked computer.
    • Changing the auto-correct options from an unlocked computer. Go for something that won’t be discovered for several months. For example auto-correcting “judgementally” to zzzzzz.

Remember: fun activities are sackable offenses.

conference room
Before the auditors move in by New Chengdu

4) Food
Managers will generously provide sweets, chocolate and cookies for their audit team. It’s always welcome but means that audit rooms get very messy very quickly.

The mess describes the auditors’ life: stray markers and unfindable staplers; piles of wanted and unwanted paper; wires, power cables and hubs; ladies shoes and headphones; empty sandwich packs and half eaten chocolate.

But the mess does clear and the reward for the good audit team is a meal paid for by the partner.

5) Etiquette
There are many unwritten customs and assumed behaviours in the audit room. All of them should be obeyed to ensure a smooth audit and reduce audicidal tendencies (audicidal is from the Latin “audicide”, which means to seriously maim ones auditor in the pursuit of better financial statements):

    • Always offer to make tea. This applies to all grades. I was privileged and humbled when a partner made tea for me.
    • Share your power. The socket to laptop ratio is never high enough. Shared power keeps the audit running.
    • Don’t run away. You don’t want to be the trainee that runs away from an intimidating substantive audit test, doesn’t tell the manager, and sparks a police search operation.

Audit War Room Stories

I’ve made audit rooms sound unpleasant and unhygienic. But is it a bonding experience and has given me memorable stories. I’m certain that I will get more audit war room stories in the coming year(s).

How China Has Changed Me – Part I

I’m impatient. I hate waiting. For example, I will always run to catch the train. I apologise to those I’ve knocked over at London Bridge rail station while trying to catch a train that has already left. Although the next train is usually just 4 minutes away I continue to treat my work shoes like a pair of Nike trainers.

A few weeks ago, I finish my first day at the client site. I had spent a whole day auditing, which actually meant sitting around staring blankly at an Excel spreadsheet wondering how the numbers add up. I went back to the hotel tired and in need of quick food. We ordered at the restaurant but the food had not arrived after an hour. Waiting when hungry is not a good combination for me. So, I got up to the waitress, used some hand movements and asked for the food to come.

This was polite by Chinese standards, but was overly bold by British standards. I didn’t even think it was a big deal because I had got so used to demanding everything quickly in Tianjin. I used to feel that I greatly offended waiters whenever I asked for something. I’d use timid gestures and try to transmit my thoughts by telepathy. That inhibition has now gone, I get to eat sooner but I’m a little less British.

McDonald’s – Eat, work and play

This evening I spent time in McDonald’s doing my Chinese homework. There are too many distractions at home, such as my laptop, guitar and bed for sleeping. So when I need time to really concentrate, I go to McDonald’s.

Working in McDOonald’s

Back in Britain, McDonald’s is a last-resort for quick nutrition but in China it is somewhat of a luxury because it is expensive compared to native Chinese food. McDonald’s is the restaurant for the aspirational middle classes.

McDonald’s makes me feel like I am back at home. Except for the menu I can’t understand and the hoards of Chinese. The staff now knows to hand me the picture menu when they see me. It’s a nice place to sit down after a long day. I am a fan of the Swedish-style furniture, wood-panelled walls and the colour-scheme that is made up of 4 shades of brown. The staff are very helpful and you are not expected to clear your own rubbish. I still do so out of habit and they awkwardly try and take it out of my hands before I get to the bin.

McDonald’s - the epitome of designing with wood

I come here to work, to have a chat with my friends over a coffee and to eat double-cheeseburgers. Yes, I do need my fix of processed beef and cheese.