The accountancy profession is in the grip of a mental health crisis, with a CABA study finding that a third (31%) of chartered accountants feel stressed on a daily basis, a major concern for employers during Mental Health Awareness Week
The research by CABA found that only 2% of accountants polled for the research said they were unaffected by stress. Nearly two-fifths (37%) said their job was the main cause of stress, while a third (29%) cited the difficulty of trying to maintain a work-life blend. Underlining the lack of work-life balance, two-fifths (38%) checked their emails outside work every day, and a third (33%) even checked their emails while sick or on annual leave.
In the accountancy profession, the CABA research identified various pressures within the workplace itself, which many accountants are grappling with on a regular basis and contribute to the rising industry stress levels. The research found that the most commonly felt workplace frustrations include:
• being overworked (41%);
• office politics (33%);
• feeling undervalued (29%);
• failure to increase pay or rewards (29%); and
• having to attend too many meetings (28%).
Kelly Freehan, service director, CABA, comments on the findings: ‘While a certain degree of pressure can help with motivation, if stress levels are excessive, we risk becoming less productive or burning out. With our research finding that many chartered accountants feel their workloads are so severe that they need to constantly check their emails outside work, it’s clear that firms should be actively encouraging their staff to maintain a healthier work-life blend.’
A fifth (21%) of respondents cited money as the main cause of stress, though this was of greater concern to younger and middle-aged respondents than it was to their older colleagues.
A quarter (24%) of 18-34-year-olds and a third (32%) of 35-44-year-olds report money being their main source of stress. This was in comparison to just 1-in-10 (10%) 45-54-year olds and fewer than a fifth (17%) of those aged over 55.
The research found that younger and middle-aged accountants are likely to feel more stressed overall than their older colleagues. More than two fifths of 18-34-year-olds (43%) and 35-44-year-olds (45%) report feeling stressed every day, compared with just 13% of 45-54-year olds and 15% of those aged over 55.
Freehan said: ‘It’s particularly concerning to see that so many young people within the industry are wrestling with stress, with our research showing that they are the most likely to take work home, stay late in the office and work on days off. Business leaders must provide tangible support that helps staff to form healthy working habits at the start of their careers, if we’re to avoid the risk of fewer young people seeking opportunities in accountancy.’
Three-quarters (76%) of accountants claim that work has negatively affected them in the past 12 months, with a particular strain being placed on their social lives. Some of the most common effects include:
• a close relationship being damaged (61%);
• being unable to partake in hobbies (37%);
• feeling unable to concentrate on non-work-related issues (28%);
• being unable to see friends (27%); and
• putting on weight due to a lack of work-life blend (27%).
The research was released before Mental Health Awareness Week, which runs 12-19 May, and the theme for this year’s campaigning event is body image.
There are some clear signs of early stress and it is important to be mindful of potential issues. Employment specialists at Peninsula have put together a checklist of useful tips to look out for in staff and colleagues, and best practice advice. These include:
- changes in people’s behaviour or mood or how they interact with colleagues;
- changes in their work output, motivation levels and focus;
- struggling to make decisions, get organised and find solutions to problems;
- appearing tired, anxious or withdrawn and losing interest in activities and tasks they
- previously enjoyed; and
- changes in eating habits, appetite and increased smoking and drinking.
Best practice tips
- make colleagues aware that support is available;
- be friendly and considerate - a simple “’how are you?’ can go a long way;
- help create an accepting attitude within the team;
- listen and value colleagues; and
- be approachable and dependable.
Specialists at health and wellbeing provider Health Assured, which offers comprehensive employee assistance programmes (EAP), giving 24/7 caring and compassionate support services, has put together some tips and advice to help employees and employers, with managing their mental health.
If you are worried about your own mental health, or the wellbeing of someone you care about, it is important to look out for emotional warning signs. Mental health problems can cause a wide variety of emotional symptoms, some of which include:
• changes in mood;
• erratic thinking;
• chronic anxiety;
• lack of self-worth; and
• impulsive actions.
An important part of keeping healthy is taking care of your own mental health. There are plenty of things you can do to help make sure you keep yourself mentally healthy, top tips include:
• talk - it’s vital for your own mental wellbeing that you open up to your support network and talk about your thoughts and feelings;
• exercise - regular exercise can boost your self-esteem, help you become more productive and improve your sleeping patterns;
• eat well - a balanced diet that is good for your physical wellbeing, is also good for your mental wellbeing. Your brain needs a mix of nutrients to stay healthy and function well;
• drink less - stay within the recommended daily alcohol limits; 3 to 4 units a day for men and 2 to 3 units a day for women; and
• be mindful of others - caring for others is often integral in maintaining relationships with people you care about. It can also help to put our own problems into perspective.
To raise awareness of Mental Health Awareness Week in your workplace, there are plenty of events that you can host. Popular events include:
• Tea & Talk: have a meaningful chat with a colleague over a cuppa;
• Bake off: put your co-worker’s baking skills to the test and help raise funds for a mental health charity of your choice; and
• Curry & Chaat: chat with your friends, family or colleagues over a hot curry and strengthen your relationships in the process.
CABA has also launched a CABA mental wellbeing microsite, providing support and advice for chartered accountants.