Working overtime, barely making deadlines, a demanding boss: These pressures may be part of life for an accountant. According to a recent Accountemps survey of U.S. workers, 60 per cent of respondents said their level of job-related stress has risen over the last five years.
The survey also finds a generational difference. Of the respondents, 64 per cent of millennials (ages 18 to 34) report feeling workplace pressure — compared to only 35 per cent of their more experienced (55 years of age and older) counterparts.
As the more leisurely days of summer give way to busier ones, a primer on how to manage stress in the workplace can help accounting and finance professionals adhere to mounting workloads.
- Master your calendar. A major source of stress in the office is too many meetings and not enough time to focus on pressing tasks. Protect your work hours by scheduling periods throughout the day designated for specific assignments.
- Stop juggling. You may pride yourself on your ability to multitask, but constantly changing directions actually hampers your productivity and adds to your stress level. A better approach is to finish one assignment before turning your attention to another.
- Work off-site. Is your workplace loud and distracting? Do phone conversations and office chitchat prevent you from concentrating on data analysis or reconciling ledgers? If so, ask your supervisor if you can telecommute a couple days a week. The peace and quiet of home could help you focus.
- Turn on the tunes. If you can’t get away from the noisy environment, put in ear buds and listen to something more pleasant. But don’t tune in to talk radio or anything that can pull your attention. Better choices are music without lyrics, white noise or sounds of nature.
- Lighten your load. Analyse your work calendar and to-do list. What can you cut out? Detangle yourself by foregoing nonessential activities that get in the way of meeting deadlines. Another option is to discuss your workload with your supervisor to see if there is anything you can delegate to other team members.
- Make down time a daily habit. When deadlines are relentless, it can be tempting to work a full day without stopping for a real break. Skipping lunch every once in a while won’t lead to burnout, but regularly pushing yourself like that is unsustainable. Consider blocking off small chunks of time on your calendar each day to get away from work. The notification will remind you to take your break.
- Get the blood flowing. De-stress by making exercise a regular part of your routine. Moving your body can improve both your physical and mental health. Exercise can also boost your memory, helping you work more productively and accurately. So take the stairs instead of the elevator. Sign up for a lunchtime yoga or tai chi class. Make it a habit to go outside for a brisk walk after lunch.
- Visualise relaxation. When you feel panic starting to rise, go to your happy place. Positive imagery can help in times of stress. Close your eyes, start breathing slowly and deeply, and picture yourself in a serene setting. Once you feel calm, slowly open your eyes and pick up where you left off.
- Use your paid holidays. Some accounting and finance professionals skip part of their annual leave due to heavy workloads. However, foregoing a holiday actually makes it harder for workers to cope with job pressures. Use the time off that you’ve earned — your body and mind deserve time away from the office
- Ask for help. The last thing your boss wants is for you to burn out and quit. If the most recent tax season or year-end close was almost more than you could handle on your own, speak up and request assistance. It could be time for your company to hire additional staff — just for the peak period, on a full-time basis or both.
Stress is bad for you and your accounting career. Whether you’re just starting out or nearing retirement, prioritise healthy habits so you can remain happy and productive on the job.
This article is provided courtesy of Robert Half, parent company of Accountemps, Robert Half Finance & Accounting and Robert Half Management Resources. Robert Half is the world’s first and largest specialised staffing firm placing accounting and finance professionals on a temporary, full-time and project basis. For career and management advice, follow our blog at roberthalf.co.uk/blog