How to reduce workplace stress for accounting and finance staff

The world of accounting and finance can hold multiple sources of stress, from year-end and regulatory reporting changes to new business demands. Matt Weston, managing director of Robert Half UK looks at ways to reduce stress across finance teams

While stress can be good at times, driving staff cohesion and even productivity, when it becomes too intense and sustained, employees can suffer — and potentially, burn out.

There is no better time than Mental Health Awareness Week for employers and managers to consider how to alleviate stress in the workplace. Stress is one of the major contributing factors to mental health issues in the workplace and by helping to ease the pressure on their employees, managers can improve job satisfaction among their team.

Reevaluate internal processes

There are some internal processes that cause unnecessary stress. For example, when employees are facing pressing deadlines and impatient stakeholders, the last thing they need is to be pulled away from their work for a meeting that isn’t a good use of their time.

Department and team heads should consider the necessity of meetings. If they need to impart routine or non-urgent information, is there another format that this communication can be delivered? They should be considerate of attendees too – the whole team shouldn’t be attending a meeting that only needs a few key people.

Finally, to keep meetings running smoothly, there should be a clear purpose with an agenda to help people prepare and be more engaged during the meeting – and less stressed about taking time out of their day to attend.

Meetings are a great way to keep employees up-to-date and a company culture that values — and enables — collaboration and connectivity for all employees can create a more positive work environment. But workers who feel disconnected and isolated within an organisation often experience heightened stress and low morale.

Managers should consider new technology that can improve communication and encourage idea-sharing throughout their department. Some popular cross-platform applications include Skype for Business, Google Hangouts, Slack, Asana and Trello.

Promote wellness at work

Healthy people are typically better able to weather stress than those who are less mindful about their overall wellness or don’t have enough time to focus on it. Simple technique like a shared team lunch, fruit in the kitchen or offering access to, or discounted gym memberships can help to encourage a health workforce and help fuel employees through their day-to-day responsibilities.  A comprehensive workplace wellness programme can help employees maintain their health and well-being, and be ready to meet the challenges the workday brings.

Linked to wellness is the importance of providing employees with flexibility. The opportunity to work from home one day a week, or work remotely, can help to reduce stress levels. One of the biggest sources of stress for employees is the daily commute and flexible working can help to ease this pressure point for workers significantly. Furthermore, flexible working initiatives can increase employee loyalty and improve retention rates, something that over a third (34%) of CEOs recognised in the Robert Half 2019 Salary Guide.

A positive workplace culture

If a manager wants to reduce workplace stress for their employees, they should set a good example and think about their own workplace habits. Are they always staying late at the office? Do they send department-wide emails on weekend mornings? When was the last time they took their full annual leave entitlement?

Employees pay close attention to their boss’ habits and will often follow their lead. So, team leaders should take a good look at their own everyday practices and, if necessary, make some adjustments. Whether it’s taking part in a lunchtime yoga class or leaving the office at a reasonable hour, they should explore ways to reduce their own stress levels.

Linked to leadership habits, there are some employees who may be afraid to speak up about feeling overworked, worried that they will be seen as not being able to handle their job. Managers should avoid this at all costs and strive to create a workplace where staff members know they can raise a hand if they are feeling overwhelmed.

Promoting a positive company culture that values honesty and where employees know they can express their concerns is something that every employer should strive for.

Bring in reinforcements

Employees often come under more strain than usual at certain times of the year, for example, the end of each month or the end of the tax year. Special projects can create pressure, too. Most accounting and finance departments only have enough headcount in place to handle day-to-day responsibilities. Adding just one unexpected assignment to the to-do list could quickly lead to work overload.

So, if managers are committed to reducing workplace stress for their employees, they should be proactive about providing them with extra support when they need it. They should try to make room in their budget for augmenting the core team with ‘professional gig economy’ workers during peak periods.

Professional gig economy workers are temporary or interim specialised staff can be hired on a short-term basis to fill skills gaps. Two in five (38%) UK businesses say they are currently filling skills gaps with short-term employees. For example, it is common practice in compliance departments to hire a consultant or project manager to lead compliance work on a certain piece of new regulation for a period of a few months.

Not all stress is bad, but by helping staff maintain the right balance between pressure and productivity, managers will reap the reward in the form of a team that has a positive attitude and gets more done.

About the author

Matt Weston is managing director of Robert Half UK

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