Chairman The Corporate Finance Network
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Look after yourself too

With accountants acting as improvised therapists with their clients, Kirsty McGregor reflects on the importance of caring about your own wellbeing first. 

1st Jun 2020
Chairman The Corporate Finance Network
Columnist
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This pandemic has caused business owners to go into shock, but also to suffer from a type of grief as many are recognising now that the business they had has changed, it’s having to adapt, or maybe it’s already gone forever. 

The implications of lockdown were severe enough, and after mothballing and being suspended in time for weeks, the gradual release of it is now is causing apprehension and a reluctance to go ahead with those permanent changes which may be necessary. 

That eventual realisation that the requirement for implementing social distancing is not only here for a few weeks, but could be something which affects our society, our economy and their trade for months and years to come. 

Whether that’s costs to be incurred for PPE, reduction in the level of sales which are now possible due to social distancing, or their concerns about staff availability, costs or redundancies – the vast majority of SMEs has never had to make such enormous decisions. They don’t have the experience of managing a business through a crisis, especially when it arrived so suddenly and was not of their own making. 

It’s no wonder that this week’s ACCA/CFN SME Health Survey reports that:

  • 89% of accountancy firms report that their SME clients are feeling more stressed
  • 78% say their clients have worse mental health
  • 11% have spoken to clients who are suicidal

During this time, accountants have had to step up to be an all-round business adviser like never before. But it’s not only been the business’ health which accountants have had to be concerned about. We are worried about our client’s personal health too. And we never trained for this. 

We aren’t psychologists or mental health practitioners. Yet phone call after phone call, email after email, we are that shoulder to cry on, the sounding board for all their concerns, the navigator to show them the way through, to give them the confidence to make those decisions, to assure them that they can do this.

And my thoughts turn to how accountants are coping with all that pressure. With multiple grant claims or loan applications for most clients, the workload has been severe and seemingly never-ending. As if that wasn’t bad enough, the extra obligations of having these mentoring, even therapist-type conversations, will be taking its toll on even the most empathetic of practitioners. 

But I look around the profession today and see how accountants have reached out to their peer group and are collaborating. Networks, professional bodies, vendors and trade publications have thrown aside any previous lines which divided their role in the ecosystem, and have worked together to provide accountants with the advice and support they need in order to help the businesses in our country. 

And I’d encourage all accountants to find their support, their crutch, the place where they can offload and know that others understand. Because the more we share the pressures we are facing, the more likely we are to find the answers. And more than that, the knowing nod from others experiencing the same, the virtual squeeze of the arm, the comments in the chatbox which say just what you were thinking too. 

Thank goodness we have the ability to find these places. Thanks to AccountingWEB for providing one such outlet. It has been very welcome for many people, as its support ripples through the profession and impacts the wider business community. The true scale of which we’ll probably never know. But it’s a profession I’m very proud to be part of.

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