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A recent survey by The Chartered Accountants Benevolent Association (CABA), an occupational charity that supports the chartered accountancy profession, discovered that over half of all respondents (56%) are struggling with burnout and excess stress, compared to 41% found in other industries.
79% of respondents also believed that stress and a culture of poor mental health is ingrained into the accounting profession.
complexity of the role
the lack of room for error
I know what overwork and burn out feels like as this happened to me when I was working in London. I had an abscess at the bottom of my spine but I had delayed going to see the doctor because I was too busy! Sound familiar? When I went, he sent me straight to A&E. The consultant there said, “I can’t believe how you’ve coped with the pain. We’re operating tomorrow.” I said, “You can’t; I’m going out to an audit tomorrow.” His reply: “You’re going nowhere soon.”
Writing these words now, it’s hard to believe that work had overtaken my life to such an extent but it had. Nowadays, I am aware and I stop. You can too.
But enough of the doom and gloom! For many of us, being an accountant/bookkeeper is an intensely satisfying way of life. We just need to learn to manage ourselves. Easier said than done sometimes, I know, but it is possible.
Here are some tips for improving your work life balance:
1. Self Care
I think this is the most helpful thing you can do to manage your work/life balance. Get to recognise the signs and do something about it. I can usually recognise if I’ve done too much (tired and headache) and try to take a break or have a rest. Sometimes just a walk around the park is enough.
I work at home for myself, so in some ways I have more control than an employee. But even when I worked at Moore Stephens in London, I would always go for a walk at lunchtime. Also, at that time, the tax departments were in different buildings so I’d break things up by walking over and asking my queries face to face.
2. Have an overall weekly plan
Prioritise all of the tasks you need to finalise this week. ‘Prioritise’ being the key word here! I’m a firm believer in getting the easy marks but if you’re hitting a deadline, then this needs to be completed first.
From this plan, prepare a daily to do list. Don’t go mad – make this achievable or you’ll get fed up pretty quickly!
Have a good think about the tasks you’re undertaking regularly. Do you need to be doing these or could you pass them to someone else? It may be that you would need to give them some training but it will be worth it in the long run.
Try and say ‘no’ more – the world won’t stop if you put yourself first!
Build into your day some form of moving about. This is easy for me as I enjoy it so I always start the day with either a run or a walk. Even when it’s raining! Can you think of anything you can do; even if it’s just some gentle stretches away from the computer. I know that when I was employed, I used to take regular walks to the drinks area to make myself a cuppa but I expect this is done less nowadays.
5. Hydrate regularly
It’s easy to keep working and not think about the fact that you haven’t had a drink for ages. Make sure you’ve always got drinks on your desk; for me, this is a herbal cuppa and a glass of water. You choose what works for you.
6. Plan regular breaks
Holidays and weekends away are crucial so make sure you have some planned in the diary. Try not to overwork prior to your holiday, trying to get everything finished. Get what is a priority sorted and leave the rest. It will still be there when you get back!
7. Set specific times to review emails
I’m constantly amazed at how long I spend looking at and replying to emails. Nothing that can be done about it though, as this is our main way of communicating now. But you can control when you look at them.
Some examples include:
First thing in the morning, as you begin your work
Before your finish for the day
8. Plan Meetings
Many people I speak to say that they think there are too many meetings.
Before you set a meeting with your team, ask yourself these questions:
Is this meeting necessary?
If so, does it need to be daily or weekly or can it be less regular?
What’s the agenda?
When planning a meeting, it should have a clear purpose. We recommend you outline the topic that needs to be included and who will discuss what topic and for how long.
How long will the meeting be? Set a time and stick to it!
It’s important to prioritise your health as if you’re unwell you won’t be able to do anything. Better to be aware now and put some plans in place. If I can help you with this, then book a call.