work-related stress

With just one week to go until the 2017 In-house Recruitment Awards, CareersinAudit, our category partners for the Best Financial and Professional Services Team award, have shared with us the results of their recent survey on work-related stress in the financial services sector. The results are rather unsettling.

A large number of accountants, FDs and CFOs (37%) are suffering stress1 as a direct result of their work on a weekly basis. This figure rises to 57% for accountants reporting that they suffer from stress at least once a month. Some respondents (15%) revealed that they have suffered from such severe stress that they have been signed off work.

Despite the majority of accountants revealing that they suffer from stress on a regular basis, 60% of these have not reported this to their line manager or senior management. Over a third (38%) of stressed accountants said that they hadn’t reported their stress to management because ‘everyone gets stressed’ and that they ‘didn’t want to bother him/her’. Almost a further 33% believed that they might be thought of differently by their bosses and co-workers if they reported feeling stressed, and a further 10% worried that they could lose their job or miss out on a future promotion if they reported feeling stressed in their current role.

What does this mean for the Accountancy industry?

The research on stress levels in the accountancy sector was conducted amongst 1,156 accountants in August-September 2017 and explored several topics in various areas of their careers related to stress, including;

  • How often they suffered from stress at work
  • Whether they had reported this stress to management and what was done about it
  • Symptoms of stress suffered
  • Average working hours
  • Work contact outside of office hours
  • Checking work communication while on leave
  • If they had missed important family events due to work

According to the research by CareersinAudit.com, 48% of stressed accounting professionals believe that the main cause of their suffering is that there are simply not enough hours in the day to complete the work that they are given. More than a quarter (27%) reported that company politics or a boss/line manager that they do not get on with were the main cause of their stress – which may explain why some of those who are suffering from stress feel unable to raise this with management. Other main reasons given for workplace stress included unrealistic targets, poor management practices or the pressure to do other people’s work.

Of those who did report feeling stressed to someone senior at work, a third revealed that nothing happened to resolve it, or that they were told ‘it was part of the job’. However, the news isn’t all bad, as some employers (24%) showed compassion and understanding by sitting down with the employee and working out ways to delegate their workload, and a further quarter of employers suggested a day or two off to recuperate, or provided free counselling or another therapeutic treatment.

Other highlights of the research included:

  • Two thirds of respondents reported feeling that their company does not do enough to support stressed employees;
  • Nearly a third (32%) just want someone in a position of responsibility at work to listen to their concerns regarding stress, whilst a further 22% would like their workload reduced. Some seem prepared to suffer the effects of stress as long as they are remunerated for working longer hours, but nearly a quarter (23%) would prefer to work at home or be given counselling, mindfulness training or another therapeutic treatment to manage stress levels;
  • Half of respondents reported that they are working 8-10 hours a day on average, with a further 23% working between 10-12 hours a day. 10% admitted they are working at least 12 hours or more each day;
  • More than a quarter of respondents admitted that they often work at weekends, with a further 11% stating that they work most weekends, and a small sample (3.5%) said they work every weekend. A fifth had worked 10-20 weekends over the past twelve months, with a further 14% working 20-30 weekends over the past year, and a tenth revealed they had worked more than 30-40+ weekends in the same time period;
  • Nearly two thirds (65%) revealed that their employer expects to be able to contact them outside of work hours, and 54% admit that this bothers them, feeling that they should be able to finish the working day and focus on their private life. However, three in ten are resigned to their work fate, stating ‘there is nothing I can do about it’ and a further 21% believing that if they said anything it could affect their job or chances of promotion;
  • Three quarters of respondents admitted they check their mobile or emails for work communication whilst on holiday, with 40% stating they look multiple times a day and a further 37% looking once a day, and;
  • Six in ten respondents admitted that have had to miss an important family or friend’s occasion because of work – these included a wedding (24%), a children’s school event (22%), a funeral (14%) and a spouse’s/partner’s birthday (15%).

Simon Wright, Operations Director, CareersinAudit.com comments:

“Despite many admitting (and resigned) to the fact that stress is part of their working lives, there is a strong call to action for bosses to make changes to create a better work-life balance for their employees and, in turn, reduce stress levels.

“Many are suffering in silence – fearing it could impact negatively and potentially hinder their chances of a promotion or even result in the loss of their job.  Even when sufferers spoke up, a third of senior management turned a blind eye and did nothing to alleviate the stress. Whilst some companies clearly demonstrated that they care by allowing days off, therapeutic treatments or counselling for their staff, bosses and senior managers need to look at the real causes of the stress epidemic in the workplace.

“Those in the profession are at risk of being burnt out by the daily toll of long hours, working weekends regularly and the majority engaged with work even on holiday.  Everyone needs to be able to have time out to ‘recharge their batteries’.

“Bosses need to create a working culture where there is no stigma attached to stress and, crucially, make sure there are enough employees to manage the workload”

 

The information provided from this survey on the general feeling amongst accountants about their stress levels, and their plans for imminent or future career changes is valuable for in-house recruiters to keep in mind when looking for audit and accountancy professionals to join their companies. If recruiters can be aware of the general perceived causes and desired remedies for workplace stress for accountants across the industry, they can use these markers to evaluate their own company culture and see if improvements are needed to both attract and retain great employees.

To read the full report on the 2017 annual survey by CareersinAudit.com and its findings, please click here.

 

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1 Stress was defined as ‘a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or demanding circumstances’.

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