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Stress: The profession wakes up

11th Feb 2014
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AccountingWEB members regularly provide evidence of how stressful their lives can be in comments, blogs and Any Answers. Rachael Power looks at how practitioners are opening their eyes to the threat it poses. 

The immense responsibility, coupled by pressure, red tape and deadlines such as self assessment can leave practitioners struggling for time in their own personal life. 

This isn't just a personal observation; statistics in CABA's recent Wellbeing Survey confirm it. A third of practitioners said they feel pressure in their day-to-day life, and a further 15% have been signed off work due to stress. 

Stress is often seen as simply a part of the professional's life. Despite this 'taking-it-on-the-chin' attitude - or possibly because of it - the number of practitioners signed off either by themselves or by their employer/GP has risen in the last year. 

This finding, according to CABA, could be taken two ways: either accountants are finding it easier to open up about being stressed, or stress levels have risen in the profession. Over 32% of the 1,000 surveyed were stressed on a daily basis and a further 23% have suffered from mental health problems - a seemingly separate but arguably linked statistic.

Accountants certainly aren't strangers when it comes to helping others. Just under half the CABA survey respondents did some form of volunteer work in their community, a figure which one respondent said was "underrepresented". 

So why is it so hard for them to help themselves? Around 93% claimed to have a good support network, but felt they could only ask for small amounts of help as they were embarrassed to ask for more. 

When it came to job satisfaction, respondents said that long working hours and few breaks were bottom of their list. Top of the list, however, was feeling valued by their employer, job security and having an adequate support network. 

Indeed, the report showed those in smaller firms have a "strong emotional attachment and loyalty to their company". Those in larger firms reported feeling more unhappy as they felt 'sweated' and like an asset rather than a person. 

There's no question accountants in business and practice experience high levels of stress. 

Seeing it as part and parcel of the job and therefore accepting it as something they have to put up with because of the loyalty to the firm, colleagues and clients may be one reason why so many are so stressed in practice.

And it seems declining levels of loyalty, combined with the higher risk of redundancy through job cuts and technology replacement may be contributing to stress within the profession.

One thing is universal: there needs to be a higher awareness of stress management in the profession as a whole. This includes education on what stress signs to look for, how to deal with them and how to help fellow colleagues. 

We need to make it acceptable for all accountants to talk about an issue that is obviously having an increasing effect on their everyday working life, if evident from even a small sample of UK accountants.

Do you feel you can open up about stress, when it's affecting you? Has it tampered with your working life?

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By kellyanstee
14th Feb 2014 11:57

Great Blog

This blog is great and so very true!

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By Marlinman
14th Feb 2014 12:32

Stress

When I was an employee in practice there certainly was a lot of stress. Timesheets, clients with lousy records and partners totally out of touch with the nitty gritty of the case who left things until just before statutory deadlines.

Setting up on my own was the best thing I ever did and all the stress disappeared. I can pick and choose who I take on, no timesheets with everything done for a fixed fee and answerable to nobody except the client and HMRC.  Furthermore I now do everything electronically from home or wherever I am on holiday and no more rush hour traffic jams. 

 

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