If the last few years have taught the world anything, it’s that a healthy balance of work, life, and respite can be the key to finding harmony when it comes to an employee’s mental health. But what happens when you work in the kind of infrastructure where one mistake can lead to a potentially catastrophic outcome for a client, and hyper-vigilance is considered an attribute, not a hindrance?
For accountants, and those who work in other financially focused areas, the levels of stress and increased expectations to be the ‘last defence’ of a business’s bottom line can be a difficult burden to shake off at times. Even when they aren’t at work.
In a sad twist of irony, it seems that their own well-being and mental health are the only things that accountants aren’t giving meticulous attention to.
Causes and effects
Mental health initiatives in the workplace are finally getting the time and recognition they deserve. And it couldn’t have come at a better time. In the United Kingdom alone, 2020/2021 saw either stress, depression, or anxiety being responsible for 50% of all work-related poor health cases.
For accountants alone, a study by ATT found a staggering 90% of employees felt overwhelmed and stressed in their roles. This could perhaps be shrugged off as post-COVID blues, but when we compare ATT’s findings to the 2020/2021 government survey above, we can see that professional industries were experiencing these issues before the pandemic, with an increased workload, tight deadlines, and too much pressure being listed as reasons for worker anxiety.
If these effects are clear for all to see, what was the root cause? Are stress and anxiety at work indicative of the modern world, or have the pressures of the modern world added to the workloads and tasks that accountants are expected to perform?
Finding ways to reduce stress in the workplace
While the effects of COVID may have been the catalyst for mental health matters to reach the forefront of the finance sector, it seems as if this was an issue that has been coming for some time now.
A study conducted by CABA (a charity that promotes mental well-being for accountants) found 30% of accountants admitting to feeling isolated in life, and 21% confessing that they don’t feel hopeful for the future of their wellness or their industry as a whole.
But whether someone is working for a global organisation or as a small enterprise in competition with industry goliaths, the mental health of business owners and accountants alike needs to be addressed.
So, what can be done to reduce the stresses of the job, improve employee wellness, and boost morale and productivity in the process?
Cultivating a culture of care and communication
Setting clear boundaries between peoples’ work and personal lives is the first step toward giving accountants a little more breathing room. That sense of separation may not happen overnight, but it will be an important part of improving the mood of overworked staff.
While it certainly won’t be easy, someone needs to be that first voice who speaks up and asks others to communicate how they feel. When people feel heard and understood, they’re more likely to open up about what’s really going on inside their heads.
This will in turn help to build a new culture of support and care, where accountants feel comfortable admitting they’ve been overwhelmed or in need of a little help.
Embracing new innovations in software
Some industries still aren’t making the most of the innovations within their grasp. Automation has helped many companies reduce their tiresome administrative tasks, improve productivity, and even reduce the overall stress associated with the jobs in their industries.
As a job in the financial world is one of the most detailed and accuracy-focused careers you can step into, automation has become a true aid to employee workloads. In fact, a recent study gave some more insights into how advancements in accounting have made a huge difference in this incredibly stressful industry.
- 82% of SMEs now use a cloud-based accounting system
- 67% of accountants prefer to use cloud accounting software
- 56% of accountants feel that technology has increased their productivity
As the statistics show, using cloud-based software for accounting increases productivity and helps to reassure employees that they have that digital safety net supporting them as they work.
The benefits of automation in the workplace help businesses and employees alike to work faster, more efficiently, and with increased flexibility through the following ways:
- It’s easier for other employees to learn, therefore lightening the workload
- Sensitive financial data is stored safely in the cloud and cannot be lost
- It’s accessible from anywhere, providing employees with more flexibility
Ending the stigmas associated with mental health
Accountancy (and finance in general) can be extremely intense and fast-paced. There’s rarely ever any time to just sit and reflect on the last few years that we’ve all endured. And these obstacles have required accountants to remain stoic, strong, poised, and organised while the rest of the world around them seemed to be losing hope.
However, these incredible attributes of the job shouldn’t mean that communication is kept to pleasantries and that old “I’m fine, thanks for asking” attitude. In this day and age, the most daring and helpful thing someone can do is create a dialogue around mental health in the workplace.
Accountants flex the logical side of their brains for a living, and sometimes having a chat with others and discovering you’re not alone can be the most logical solution to this nationwide problem in accounting.
And just as dedicated accountants are pivotal to helping the economy and assisting small businesses with their bookkeeping, it’s time to dedicate a little more time to those around us, ensuring that they’re not too stressed, and feel comfortable and productive in their respective roles.