How many accountants are unaffected by stress? Just 2%

(Accountancy Age 13/05/2019)

Today is the start of mental health awareness week in the UK, with the theme this year being body image.

With its high stress levels and a pressure to be 'always on', accountancy is a profession where mental health is increasingly on the agenda.

Upskilling can boost wellbeing

Research by AAT found that 90% of people who work in accountancy have been stressed out by work, with 43% having to take time off as a result of stress. This makes accountancy one of the most stressful industries to work in.

However, upskilling could be one way to reduce stress amongst employees. Research by LinkedIn showed that employees who were offered opportunities to learn at work are 47% less likely to be stressed, 39% more likely to feel productive and successful, and 21% more likely to feel confident and happy.

Hannah Carrington works for KIM Inspire, a non-profit organisation that provides professional mental health support in the community. She called on employers to recognise the added benefits that providing training opportunities could bring to their office.

"If the employee is able to move forward in a positive way, they can be a lot happier in work and feel like they can contribute more," she said.

"For example, their self-esteem may not be great – and for that, training could be massive. Increasing their skills and confidence will enable them to do their current job better, make them feel like they know exactly what they are trying to achieve and why, and feel more valuable in what they do as a result."

Just 2% of accountants unaffected by stress

The accountancy profession is in the midst of a mental health crisis as research by CABA, the wellbeing charity for accountants, has found that just 2% of accountants are unaffected by stress. CABA's research also showed that one in three accountants feel stressed every day and one in three also checked their emails while sick or on holiday.

There were a number of issues which contributed to the high stress levels of accountants which included:

  • being overworked (41%)
  • office politics (33%)
  • feeling undervalued (29%)
  • failure to increase pay or rewards (29%)
  • having to attend too many meetings (28%)

Kelly Freehan, Service Director of CABA said: "While a certain degree of pressure can help with motivation, if stress levels are excessive, we risk becoming less productive or burning out... it's clear that firms should be actively encouraging their staff to maintain a healthier work-life blend."

Perhaps more worrying for the industry was the findings on the youngest accountants. There was a significant divide between younger and middle-aged accountants compared to their older colleagues, with nearly half of all 18-44-year-olds feeling stressed every day compared to just 15% of those over 55.

Freehan called on business leaders to do more for their younger staff. "It's particularly concerning to see that so many young people within the industry are wrestling with stress, with our research showing that they are the most likely to take work home, stay late in the office and work on days off. Business leaders must provide tangible support that helps staff to form healthy working habits at the start of their careers, if we're to avoid the risk of fewer young people seeking opportunities in accountancy."

The hidden mental health implications of running a small business

Over half of small business owners have experienced burnout from working too hard at their business, according to new research from FreeAgent. The research also showed that 86% admitted to sacrificing their personal care, such as missing meals or cancelling social plans, for the sake of the business, while 38% said they had no professional support network in place.

However, there were signs of encouragement as three quarters still recommended self-employment as a career choice.

Ed Molyneux, CEO of FreeAgent, said the figures showed more support for self-employed people was needed. "The large proportion of business owners without a support network in place, suggests that either there is not enough support available for these self-employed people, or they are unsure about where, or who, to seek help from when they need it."

"While it's certainly positive to see that the majority of small business owners said they would recommend self-employment, it's troubling to see how stark the reality of working for yourself can be when you scratch under the surface. For lots of self-employed people it means working very long hours, with the pressure of maintaining their ventures having a noticeable effect on their mental health," he added.

"Working for yourself should be an uplifting experience that enables you to be the master of your own destiny – not one that is detrimental to your mental health. More needs to be done to ensure that the UK's legion of freelancers and small business owners can protect themselves from any mental health problems that arise from self-employment in the future."



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