April is National Stress Awareness Month and we’ve already written a blog directed at the employers in our audience helping them take steps to help reduce stress in accountancy practice.
But not every employer is a great employer sadly. And the next step in our mission to support the mental health and career enjoyment of accountants up and down the country, is to help individuals reduce the professional stress that may be negatively impacting their lives.
So if you work at any level in an accountancy firm and you’ve found that the stress you experience in your job is impacting your mental health and relationships, it’s time to do something about it.
Here’s our top five tips for reducing the stress you experience as an accountant in practice.
1. Know your worth and take the time to prioritise your health and wellbeing.
If you don’t look after yourself, then all of the work based changes that can be made to help you reduce the stress you experience in your life will be worthless.
Once you’ve made the decision that something has to change, accompany that with a commitment to prioritise your own needs. Exercise. Eat well. Hydrate. Create boundaries around the time that you spend doing things that nourish you physically, mentally and spiritually and make those things non-negotiable. If having time with your family is what fills your cup, ring-fence that. If it’s meditating each night to ensure you sleep deeply, make that happen. Make these things part of your daily routine and habits and let it be known that they matter to you.
2. Audit your workload.
Whether the work you have on your to-do list is self imposed or has been delegated to you by your manager, keep track of it for a week or so. Write down all of the tasks you complete each day and then at the end of the week take some time to reflect on the work you’ve completed (or had hoped to) independently.
Consider whether the tasks you deem necessary are unrealistic, take more time than you have available to work, are being completed inefficiently, could be delegated or could be shared around the team.
3. When you have a better understanding of what’s causing your stress, chat it through with a colleague.
Depending on your position at your firm this conversation might be an informal chat with your line manager or a chat with a fellow Manager or Director. Either way a problem shared is often a problem halved and having completed the audit and reflection of what is causing your stress, hopefully with the support of a listening ear, you’ll be able to consider some practical actions that might make work feel a little more manageable.
Maybe you could agree that a small period of time in your day is protected from meetings and calls and you close the door to your workspace and are free to complete the admin that’s piling up.
Maybe your line manager can see from your audit that you’re being asked to complete more work than there are reasonable working hours in the day.
Or perhaps it’s more a case of investing time in training or software to help you work more efficiently and take control of your time.
4. Consider if your need to people please is causing you too much stress.
‘Yes people’ are brilliant. We all want them in our teams and they make for really employable accountants, dependable colleagues and supportive managers.
But everyone has a limit as to how much they can absorb and how much help they can offer their team.
If you’ve said yes too many times, you’re likely to be feeling stress you’ve accidentally created by being a people pleaser.
So if saying yes to every request for help is your default emotional response, you’d do well to come up with an internal checklist that you go through each time someone asks for something from you. Start out with the most important – ‘is this a reasonable expectation of my position in accountancy?’ and then explore what your motivation for saying yes is. In time you’ll learn to understand when and how you can accept additional requests for help so that you don’t risk becoming stressed, overwhelmed and burnt out.
5. If none of the above are helping. consider stepping off the treadmill to break the cycle of stress.
This is the step where we’re very used to stepping in to help accountants. They reach out to us in absolute confidentiality to discuss their options and we’re always very pleased to help.
It might be that we’re able to offer them some advice as to how they can re-approach their employers to ask for changes to their workload that might reduce stress. Or we might be able to help secure interim positions that can offer the certainty of an enhanced rate of pay which enables them to take some time to consider how best to get on top of stress. And finally we can explore permanent posts that offer a different way of working – perhaps more flexibility, hybrid working or a change in role – there’s plenty that we can talk through if you reach out for help.
‘Stress is a natural part of life for many of us. And to a certain extent, a bit of stress and pressure can bring out the best in us. But having to sustain high levels of stress over an extended period of time is a recipe for professional disaster and we would always encourage accountants who feel like they need something to change to reach out to us sooner rather than later. Burnout is a real thing and it can be hard to bounce back from if you don’t nip it in the bud.’
Garry Howling, MD
To arrange a supportive call with our excellent team of career counsellors contact us today. Your total anonymity is guaranteed throughout the recruitment process.