Combat employee burnout and prioritize mental health at your firm

Accounting

The labor market continues to struggle amid the Great Resignation as the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported 4.4 million people quit their jobs in April alone. While no industry is immune to this phenomenon, the accounting profession has been hit especially hard with workers leaving jobs in record numbers and exacerbating concerns about the shrinking industry that date back to pre-pandemic times. 

After reaching a peak in 2012, the total number of employed accountants has dropped since 2019, indicating that fewer professionals are entering the field. As a result, the profession is facing challenges with employee retention and recruitment. 

Once the pandemic hit, heightened uncertainty and stress were evident in the workforce, further complicating the recruitment and retention issues in accounting. Many experts now believe the mental health repercussions of the pandemic are expected to remain a concern for employees across the globe for the foreseeable future. 

Employee burnout is one of the biggest mental health issues facing the workplace today. It wasn’t until 2019 that the World Health Organization officially recognized burnout in its International Classification of Diseases, calling it a syndrome “resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.” Burnout can impact focus, productivity and mood, and it can affect anyone regardless of age or experience level. 

According to a March 2021 survey by Indeed, employee burnout has only increased with the pandemic, as more than half of respondents (52%) are feeling burned out and more than two-thirds (67%) believe the feeling has worsened over the course of the pandemic. 

Employees who suffer from burnout can be at risk for more serious illnesses like depression, anxiety disorders or chronic fatigue syndrome. It’s more important than ever for employers to combat burnout in the workplace and support employees by prioritizing their mental health. With a focus on company culture and policies that promote work-life balance, employers may not only see fewer incidents of burnout, but also strengthen their ability to attract, hire and keep great people.

Flexibility

An important part of mental health is reserving time to focus on the things you love to do. Flexible work models encourage and support work-life balance. Whether it’s telecommuting, alternating locations, flextime or job sharing, empower employees to make their own decisions about how and where they work. While face-to-face interactions are critical to fostering deep colleague and client relationships, employees with flexible work models report higher job satisfaction, reduced burnout and increased productivity. Even offering half-day Fridays in the summer is a way to encourage work-life balance. Give employees a jumpstart to their weekend and more time to relax and unwind during the months of the year that are less demanding for public accountants. 

Mental health days

The traditional busy season in the accounting profession is demanding on employees and this is when the risk for burnout can peak. While it’s important to offer employees the choice to stay home from work if they need to reduce stress, consider focusing on mental health with employees during the workday. For example, choose a day each week to share topics and resources dedicated to mental health with employees. Topics may include information on meditation, self-care or the power of positivity. Educating employees on ways to manage stress can help reduce the incidence of burnout over time.

Unlimited paid time off

Give employees the freedom to take time off when needed. Empower employees to manage their own schedules and treat them as the professionals that they are. This gives employees the peace of mind of not having to prioritize vacation days, keep track of PTO hours, or work while they’re sick. It also allows them to prioritize their mental health and take a day off when needed to maintain a healthy work-life balance. 

Employee assistance programs

Employee assistance programs offer free, private and confidential support and resources to employees that can assist with a variety of issues affecting their personal lives, such as stress and anxiety, childcare solutions, substance abuse support or crisis intervention. These programs are designed to support an employee’s overall wellness, which contributes to mental health and can help prevent burnout. EAPs are a no-brainer for employers committed to investing in the work-life balance of their employees.

Mental health is an important issue, both in and out of the workplace, especially in a demanding industry like public accounting. With employee burnout at an all-time high and the Great Resignation showing no sign of waning, now is the time for companies to treat employees like their greatest asset by prioritizing mental health in the workplace and establishing programs with work-life balance in mind.

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