Set boundaries to break always-on expectationsby
As the Covid workload intensified over the last year, accountants were under more pressure to constantly check emails and be on call at all hours of the day. Accountant turned hypnotist Nigel Edwards explains how practitioners can now summon the courage to set boundaries.
It’s not unusual for accountants to burn the midnight oil to meet critical deadlines. But over the last year those long working hours have become more frequent as many practitioners have interpreted guidance, processed furlough claims and helped clients access Covid business loans.
But these long working hours and clients having boundless access has come at a cost, with the all-pervasive emails being a particular menace in blurring the boundary between work and life. But too much out of hours interaction with work can be a drain on mental health and can become expected if both sides don't have or respect boundaries.
Never respond outside normal hours
Many responses on a lively discussion on AccountingWEB’s Any Answers forum reported good boundaries between outside of working and home hours. People are switching off their work phone and educating their clients or bosses not to expect a response outside normal hours.
Wilson Philips, for example, keeps an eye on emails as they come in, but never responds to them outside ‘normal’ work hours. “I will often pen a reply, whilst the issue is still fresh in my mind, but set a send delay for the following morning. I do not want clients to get the impression that I am available 24/7.”
Meanwhile, some firms have taken that option out of the hands of their employees and have enforced email boundaries. Jason Croke noted that his previous firm blocked incoming and outgoing emails after normal working hours.
“A client emailing at 10pm at night would receive a polite ‘thanks for your email, we'll get back to you’ type auto-response,” he said. “It also held those emails from your inbox and delivered them the next morning so even if you checked your phone there would be no new emails to see.”
When you break the boundary
But what about those in our community that have allowed the boundary to be crossed too often to the point where it is now expected? Are your clients or bosses frustrated if you are not working, or contactable after the normal end of the day?
Say you start work early, and already have taken a shorter break. Then late afternoon, you are getting ready to depart after doing a good day's work, but the boss sees you going earlier than them...again.
Is it a snarky comment that spikes a little anxiety or a pattern of increasingly caustic remarks that makes you feel like you have to start putting more hours in? Maybe you have to face them to explain that you have already done a full day's work.
You start thinking I can't face confronting them, or I can't afford to create a scene, ending up under the spotlight, job at risk, heart racing, sweaty palms, and a knotted anxious stomach.
This sort of scenario would be easy to tackle and nip in the bud for many people, but for some, it’s not so natural to have that difficult conversation with a line manager or a difficult client.
For many people this is how it goes…
Torturing ourselves even more, imagine many different catastrophic endings to the conversation where we get emotional in front of the boss, or lose control and get angry and get fired. Maybe speaking out will get you overlooked for promotion. The 3D film gets created in the mind's eye complete with sound, emotions, and various catastrophic endings.
I’m not suggesting the alternative Reginald Perrin type scenario imagining driving a wrecking ball, demolishing the company premises, while the boss or client becomes a Warthog.
Although for a moment, what's the harm in allowing yourself to indulge a slightly alternative ending!
Take control through visualisation
However, you have the ability to turn your powerful unconscious mind into a helpful resource rather than a scary film industry of its own. But how does this apply to the boss or even an unappreciative client you want to disengage?
Rather than the pressure cooker building up steam to the point of bursting, open the lid sooner. There is no point in letting it fester, increasing resentment and anxiety levels.
Being assertive, open, friendly even, will disarm the negativity of the situation. Use language to feed them a reputation of being supportive for them to live up to. Being assertive does not mean getting angry. It’s not a power struggle. Summon the part of you that you can imagine will best handle that difficult conversation.
Use your imagination
You can use your powerful imagination to take that negative film image you had before.
- Imagine pushing that image out in front of you.
- Imagine a frame around it.
- Trace your fingers around the frame.
- Pretend it’s an old TV set, notice the brightness and contrast dials.
- Turn them so the image gets grey and grainy, white or black out.
- Turn the sound into a squeaky cartoonish voice.
- Push the scene further away until it becomes a little dot.
- Use your hands to physically do this, making it more of a whole body experience.
Now, imagine a full colour 3D film image comes into your full view of a perfect scenario. There you are standing up, looking confident.
- Notice how that feels calmer.
- You are feeling happy, able to communicate easily and calmly.
- You hear yourself state calmly to your boss or demanding client that you are totally committed to your work and have been starting early, and also curtailing your breaks so that you will be able to meet the work deadlines and meet your own needs. That way you will be ready to work at your best level each day.
- You wanted to make sure that they were aware of this so that they could support you when you needed to leave to attend to your other needs (family, life, etc).
Practise the technique of swapping out the old imagery pushed away to a dot and bringing in the perfect picture about six times.
By visualising the scenario, you can take control of the situation early and nip the caustic remarks and unreasonable client expectations in the bud
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Nigel Edwards - Hypnotherapist at UK Hypnosis And Coaching.co.uk
Accountant turned Hypnotist, I help people overcome anxiety, stress, fears and bad habits like smoking, without the need for long term talk therapy.
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