It might come as odd that “burnout” — which is defined as “physical or mental collapse caused by overwork” — would come about when people are being told not to work.
But accountants in the UK are in the unfortunate position of needing to provide guidance and assistance to clients on everything from countless new loan schemes, to their clients’ usual year-end accounting needs.
Instead of having a reduced workload, accountants in the UK are feeling the opposite: Added workload under impossible circumstances.
Keeping the day-to-day grind of daily bookkeeping and accounting is hard enough for busy firms, but that problem is tripled when trying to do it with screaming kids in the house and the inability to even go for a walk to clear your head! Indeed, burnout in the accountancy sector as a result of lockdowns is a real thing.
Here are some practical steps you can take to reduce stress and hence lower the chances of burnout during Britain’s seemingly never-ending lockdowns.
“Pass the Buck”
These days, we’re often told that “we’re all in the same boat”. A modified version of that statement is “We’re not all in the same boat, but we’re all in the same storm”.
Accountancy practice owners have the burden of having to keep their practices profitable despite the inability to operate as usual. And they have the added burden of needing to keep employees on board and not letting anybody off.
An 80% salary payment to a maximum of £2,500 might’ve been a nice stopgap for three months, but it’s a bit of a joke if carried on for a year or more. People need their full salaries, and a lot of people earn more than £2500 a month.
Also, to take advantage of the above scheme would mean furloughing valuable staff. And that means you can’t use them! That’s ludicrous for any business trying to stay afloat.
Businesses simply won’t last much longer if they can’t get back to work and, for that reason, it is crucial for an accountancy practice CEO to “pass the buck” and shed some of their burden onto their employees.
It should be a case of: “I’m working myself to the ground trying to make sure I don’t have to let you go. You can help me by taking some of the load off. I know it’s tough, but we’re in this together.”
People will respond to that. And employees will be glad to help.
Realise you can’t solve every client’s problem.
Optimism reigned back in March 2020 when lockdown was a new thing, and the Chancellor stood up tall like the people’s champion, promising help, assistance and hard cash wherever possible.
But people are tired now. A ship can only sail so far with no wind and no one at the oars.
As a service provider, you undoubtedly want to do your level best to help every client stay on top of their business. Many of them are probably even friends of yours.
But some are likely going to fail no matter what you do.
You are not a bank. And the current debacle and mismanagement of the pandemic is not your fault.
It’s a tough pill to swallow, but swallowing it will go a long way to alleviate the indigestion you might feel at knowing that one of your clients’ businesses might indeed go under through no lack of effort on your part.
Do your best but you must realise that you are neither a miracle worker nor the headmaster of Hogwarts who can wave a wand and make all the bad things go away.
Streamline your processes
The sudden need to know everything about cloud software and remote-working might’ve itself been a cause of extreme stress for many accountants.
But, ultimately, the only long-term solution for lowering stress is to work more efficiently.
Some crucial tools required for streamlining an accountancy practice are:
- Email parsers — stop wasting endless time on emails that can be automatically routed or deal with according to simple rules.
- Software integration — many tools can “talk to each other” these days and a platform like Zapier can help you connect them so that repetitive tasks are automated.
- Online Scheduling, such as Calendly. (You can even use this for staff to schedule time with you instead of calling you every five minutes!)
- Project Management tool (we use Monday.com).
Take a 30-minute time-out every day.
If you live in a small house with kids running around then shut yourself in a room and put some music in your ears at loud volume.
If you live alone, switch off all your devices and read a book.
If you have a balcony, step outside and don’t let anybody disturb you.
You need to find time for yourself where you’re not doing something for other people. It might be tough to find a way to do that during lockdown, but it is crucial.
Eat healthily and exercise.
Be sure to eat properly balanced meals and not to skip any meals. As for the exercise, you can couple it with your 30-minute time-out and hit two birds with one stone.
Keeping your body healthy is essential if you want to keep your mind healthy.
In a nutshell
If you take some time out for yourself, eat healthily, don’t sweat trying to solve every problem and turn over some of the load to people who will help you, you’ll greatly reduce your chances of burning out from excessive stress.