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How to Deal with Stress and Burnout in Your Accounting Firm?

29th Apr 2024
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Working in the accounting industry can be stressful. As we approach a month dedicated to mental health awareness, it's a good opportunity to assess and address stress and burnout in your practice. This article provides practical strategies for managing stress at work and achieving long-term success in your career. 

How to Deal with Stress and Burnout in Your Accounting Firm?
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Recognising that stress and burnout are common issues in the accounting industry. In fact, a staggering 56% of accountants report suffering from these issues – a significantly higher percentage than the 41% of employees in other industries. This statistic underscores the shared experiences and challenges many of us face in our profession. 

With tight deadlines that feel like they're closing in, clients who always want more, and the relentless pressure to produce accurate and timely results, it's no wonder many accountants feel like they are drowning under work. But it doesn't have to be this way. The following are simple tips that you can start practising to gradually manage stress; 

1) Identify your stress Triggers 

Understanding the root causes of your stress and burnout is crucial, and it is the first step in your journey towards managing these issues. You can create a personal stress inventory or use the perceived stress scale (PSS) to assess your stress level. Remember, these triggers can vary, but some common ones include: 

  • Working with tight deadlines: Being asked often to work with tight deadlines, especially during tax season or end-of-month closings and balancing multiple clients or projects can increase stress levels.  
  • Increased workload due to talent shortages: As accounting firms grow, more skilled talent is required to help service clients. In today's market, talent is hard to find, resulting in many at the firm working more to cope with the influx of new clients. 
  • Low technology adoption requires more focus:  When businesses are hesitant to embrace new technology, employees can be overwhelmed by manual, tedious and detail-focused tasks. Even with the numerous software applications available, finding the time and resources to learn and implement them is still a struggle. 
  • Not taking time off during personal hours: Balancing work and personal life can be challenging, especially if you're working long hours or bringing work home. According to an ACCA report, nearly 9 in 10 accountants want a better work-life balance and want more help from their organisations to manage mental health. 

Once you have identified your stress triggers, it will be easier to implement strategies to manage them. 

2) Utilise Wellness Benefits 

In response to the growing recognition of employee well-being, businesses are increasingly implementing wellness programs to support their staff's mental and physical health. These initiatives often include Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs), counselling services, mental health education, and access to well-being apps. Seeking support from within and outside the workspace encourages you to develop healthy habits and coping mechanisms to manage stress effectively. 

3) Delegate and Outsource 

Effective task delegation is key to alleviating stress from being too busy. By distributing workload, you can allow yourself and your team to focus on high-priority tasks. Keeping track of a time log is an excellent way to get an idea of your actual workload and identify tasks that can be delegated. Additionally, if you consider outsourced accounting services for tedious and low-value manual tasks, you can enable your team with increased capacity to prevent burnout before it happens. 

4) Leverage Automation 

Delegation or outsourcing is not always the easiest option; however, automation is relatively cheaper and easier to implement. By leveraging automation, you can continue your growth trajectory with reduced stress. Automation is a powerful technique that can help you streamline repetitive tasks such as accounting data entry, financial reporting, tax compliance, and reconciliation. Automating these manual responsibilities can alleviate burnout and free up time, benefiting your clients and your well-being. 

5) Prioritise Downtime 

Prioritising downtime is crucial, in addition to implementing the various strategies noted above. Scheduling regular short breaks throughout your day can significantly reduce stress levels and provide much-needed relaxation. You can supplement that with vacation time and set boundaries to disconnect from work during downtime to rejuvenate and re-energise before getting back to work. Remember, taking breaks is not a sign of weakness but a necessary step towards maintaining a healthy work-life balance. 

Final Thoughts 

The high demands of accounting often lead to significant stress, and with a busy schedule, it can be challenging to adopt stress management strategies. However, once you understand that mental health is just as important as physical health and recognise the negative impact of stress on work, you will see the importance of implementing these strategies.  

Start by trying one or two techniques, like automating accounting tasks, to streamline your workload and create more time for self-care.