Accountants lose mojo amid compliance headachesby
As Covid restrictions are lifted in England and the country navigates life without social distancing rules, many practitioners are still feeling the strain after the pandemic stripped them of their accounting mojo.
Although the peak of the Covid workload is in the rearview mirror, many practitioners are still living with the unresolved burnout and stress of the past 18 months.
On a recent episode of Any Answers Live, 69% of attendees admitted feeling “tired but still trudging on”, while only 6% surveyed felt energised. The mood of the audience indicated that the profession’s wellbeing still hasn’t rebounded.
We invited Lucy Cohen, Sharon Critchlow and Zoe Whitman on to the AccountingWEB Live virtual sofa to explore some of the ways accountants can boost their wellbeing and rediscover their enthusiasm.
Feeling fed up
Since the pandemic hit, practitioners had to contend with their normal workload alongside all the Covid support work and acting as emotional counsellors for their clients. Many firms had to shelve business development plans and growth targets. “It’s no wonder everyone is feeling fed up,” said Cohen, the founder of Mazuma Accountants.
Critchlow, an ACCA global member and wellbeing expert, concurred. “It’s only human to take it home and carry that collective anxiety and worry. Anyone that’s spent the last 18 months getting their head around furlough and CBILSs deserves the George Cross.”
Accountants are used to deadlines and that 31 January feeling, but over the past year those January blues haven’t gone away and few have accountants have had the opportunity to take that February ski trip or get away to regroup and reboot; instead, they’ve been getting more tired and fed up.
But now it’s no longer the ongoing Covid workload that’s sapping the profession’s motivation, it’s a multitude of burdens. The Any Answers Live audience are groaning under the strain of the never-ending compliance headaches (31%), client demands (28%), Making Tax Digital (19%), HMRC (16%) and the Covid workload (6%).
To regain their zest, accountants need to prioritise their own wellbeing. “It is not selfish, it’s a necessity,” said Critchlow. “Think about what is the one thing you can do for you today. Put yourself on your own to-do list.”
Get rid of unappreciative clients
Unfortunately clients can be a constant source of stress for practitioners. Like anyone else, accountants want to be appreciated and know they are making a difference. But some clients are predisposed to moan. And no matter the positive client feedback, we will hang on to the criticism. All this will chip away at your mojo.
“The reality is that if you have ‘mood hoovers’ in your client bank, get rid of them,” advised Critchlow. “Bless them on to somebody else. If they don’t hold the same values as you, or are disrespectful of your time or team, are they really a good fit?”
Zoe Whitman, the director of the six figure bookkeeper, added that “it’s not just about finding ideal clients, it’s about whether we are the ideal bookkeeper or accountant.
“This is a caring profession, but if it is grinding you down, you need to take a step back and think again about your customer strategy.”
A growing number of firms post pandemic are rebalancing their client relationships, and in turn their mojo, by grading clients and off loading those who have been unappreciative or no longer fit the firm’s direction. Practitioners can achieve this by setting boundaries and saying no to clients now and again.
“Everytime you say yes you give away a little of yourself. If you were willing to give away a little of yourself but in turn you get client respect and a good relationship, you can top that little piece of yourself back up again. But if it’s take take take, what’s left at the end of it?” said Cohen.
If a complaint has come in that is unjustified and outside the service-level agreement, the Mazuma Accountants founder encourages her colleagues to say no. She extends this to her time too.
“Over the last year we’ve all felt that we had to be available all the time. So block out your calendar. No negotiation. If you say no to something it doesn’t mean you would never get asked to do something again. Saying no to stuff makes you more exclusive.”
Vision, purpose and goals
Just as important as setting boundaries, the panel encouraged viewers to speak with their best clients as a way to help practitioners fall back in love with the profession
“I guarantee that you’ve given them so much more value on a personal level that you don’t realise how valuable you’ve been. You think they pay you for the technical job. You think they’re paying you for the technical, but it’s taking that stress away. If we think MTD is a nightmare, they’re just grateful that you’re there,” said Critchlow.
Now the strain of the Covid workload has been lifted off accountants’ shoulders, they are able to start focusing on their business and their goals. Practitioners often get their clients to think about this, but sometimes don’t ask themselves the same questions.
Whitman urged viewers to take time to think about what their ideal day would look like in their ideal life. With the bookkeepers she’s advised, it’s helped them design the business they want.
As Cohen put it, “If your business doesn’t work for you, it doesn’t work.”
This episode of Any Answers Live is packed full of advice to help accountants recapture their mojo and is CPD accredited. You can watch it now on demand.
Has the toll of the last 18 months made you fall out of love with your job and the profession? What is the biggest cause of your stress and anxiety?