A third of accountants experience weekly stress

On World Mental Health Day, a study has shown that more than a third of accountancy professionals report experiencing stress on a weekly basis, and over half at least once a month, but 60% fail to mention this at work, according to research by global job board CareersinAudit.com

Its survey of over 1,150 accountants, CFOs and FDs found that 37% said that on a weekly basis, they are suffering stress as a direct result of their work, while 57% said it happened at least once a month.

In 15% of cases of work-related stress, accountants revealed they were signed off work. More than a fifth (who suffer or have suffered stress) reported low energy, a further 17% reported headaches, 16% reported mood swings and 13% reported insomnia. Others reported panic attacks, stomach ulcers, weight gain and binge eating as well as lack of concentration.

Despite the regularity of their problems 60% of those experiencing stress said they have not alerted their line manager or senior management. More than a third (38%) suggested this was ‘because everyone gets stressed and I don’t want to bother him or her’. Nearly 30% thought raising stress as an issue could have a detrimental impact on how their co-workers and bosses regard them. A further 10% believed they could either lose their job or miss out on promotion.

According to the research, nearly half (48%) of accountancy professionals believe that the main cause of their stress is that there is simply too much work and not enough hours in the day. More than a quarter (27%) believe it is due to company politics or a boss or line manager that they do not get on with. Others believe that at the core it is down to poor management practices, unrealistic targets and the pressure to do other people’s work.

Half of respondents said that on average they are working 8-10 hours a day, with a further 23% working between 10-12 hours a day and more than a quarter suggested they often work at weekends.

Although a third of those sampled said that raising their issues with senior managers did not result in any changes, 24% of managers who were made aware of an employees’ stress sat down and worked through how their workload could be delegated. A further quarter of professionals also reported that they were either told to take a day or two off or were provided with free counselling mindfulness or another therapeutic treatment.

Overall, two thirds of respondents believe that their company does not do enough to support stress. Nearly a third (32%) want someone in a position of responsibility at work to listen to their concerns, whilst a further 22% would like their workload reduced.

Simon Wright, operations director, CareersinAudit.com, said: ‘Despite many admitting (and resigned) to the fact that stress is part of their working lives, there is a strong call to action for bosses to make changes to create a better work-life balance for their employees and, in turn, reduce stress levels.

‘Bosses need to create a working culture where there is no stigma attached to stress and, crucially, make sure there are enough employees to manage the workload.’

Separately, an analysis of all FTSE 100 annual reports has found a statistically significant link between the reporting of employee mental health and wellbeing issues and corporate earnings. Companies that addressed the issue in their 2016 reports showed up to three times more profit.

The study was conducted by digital health startup Soma Analytics, which uses machine-learning and cognitive behavioural science to detect and prevent psychological stress among office workers. It suggests that companies that ‘care’ about employee mental health issues to the extent that they report on them publicly are more productive than those that do not.

According to the findings, three in four FTSE 100 companies do not mention ‘mental health’ in their annual report at all and one in three do not mention ‘wellbeing’ at all. Firms that used the phrases two times or less clocked up a mean profit of £563bn for the year, compared to £1.4 trillion from those that mentioned the words more than twice.

The best-performing sectors include utilities and pharmaceutical companies. Among the worst performers are retail, consumer goods and construction businesses.

FTSE 100 Report 2017: Mental Health and Wellbeing is here.

Report by Pat Sweet

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