Burnout is much more than feeling stressed. Now recognised as an “occupational phenomenon” by the World Health Organisation (WHO) burnout has the potential to disrupt your working life, whether that’s through more sick days, feeling run down and exhausted, or losing interest in work you previously enjoyed. What’s more, as burnout can last for months, if not years, it can wreak havoc on the lives of those who suffer with it.
Sadly, accountants can easily find themselves at risk of burnout, given the heavy workloads, competing deadlines, and the dreaded January busy season that many accountants in practice face.
Thankfully, there are some ways to manage the risks of burnout.
Notice the signs
As the saying goes, prevention is better than cure. There are some key signs to watch out for when it comes to burnout.
The WHO has defined burnout and its characteristics as:
“[…] a syndrome conceptualised as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. It is characterised by three dimensions:
feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion;
increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one's job; and
reduced professional efficacy.”
It’s also been suggested that high-achieving individuals and perfectionists could have a higher risk of experiencing burnout.
If you notice that you’re struggling with any of the warning signs above, don’t wait to seek help – the first step to avoiding burnout is to recognise when you’re most at risk.
It’s easier said than done, but getting some time away from the office and your mind off work can do wonders to help reset yourself mentally and reduce any feelings of burnout.
Although it’s nigh on impossible to get any significant leave during busy season, try to make sure you’re at least using the full amount of your annual leave each year. If you think you might need a longer break, see whether your firm has a policy that allows you to purchase additional holiday.
Look after yourself
When facing high levels of stress and a challenging workload, it can be easy to not eat properly, go to bed late, and not exercise. These actions can all contribute to you feeling worse in the long run and may increase the risk of burnout.
While improvements might not happen overnight, try to introduce more self-care into your daily routine. This could mean making a conscious effort to have a better night’s sleep, eating a balanced meal for dinner, or trying to get active a few times a week. Even adopting one of these changes could improve your overall wellbeing.
Consider flexible working
While flexible working might not work for everyone, sometimes having a change of scenery can help reduce feelings of burnout.
Think about whether you can request to work from home. Or, if you’d prefer to stay in the office, see if you can work adjusted hours, perhaps coming into work a little later and leaving earlier to avoid peak rush hour.
If you’re a member of a professional accounting body, it may be worth researching whether they have a service that can support you.
For example, CABA offers free and confidential services to past and present members of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) in areas as diverse as wellbeing, emotional support, and career development, among others.
Ultimately, if you feel as though you’re already struggling with burnout, one of the best things to do is reach out for help. If a colleague, manager, or even partner is aware of your situation, they can put measures in place to support you as you recover.