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Accountants

Sleep better with these 5 stress busting tips for accountants

There’s no denying accountants are under an ever increasing amount of pressure, heightened by the pandemic.

“We used to conduct meetings over video before Covid hit, and it has gotten much more integrated into our workflow. It’s certainly convenient but the burnout is real. You just don’t have physical exercise between video meetings that you would have if you drove to one. The stress can build up if you have successive meetings in a day.” Umar, a senior accountant at Base Practice Support, talks about using video for communications. 

Recent surveys have shown that over a third (38%) of all professionals seem to have experienced video call fatigue over the course of the pandemic, while up to 46% of employees reported feeling increased levels of burnout compared to a year ago.

All the more evident in the post-pandemic environment is the unquestionable importance of automation and digitisation. After all, where would the world and the economy be had it not been for videoconferencing and remote working? 

And while the Covid-19 pandemic has added to stress and frustration levels at work, it has also led to countless advancements and improvements in how we conduct business. Almost four in 10 senior managers believed that the post-pandemic working environment was a more transparent and integrative one as they were able to communicate more with company leadership and inter-team collaboration was at an all-time high. But the unprecedented shift to digitization also brought with it unprecedented levels of AI anxiety.

The list of stress-inducing factors seems to be endless. But it’s not something you have to just accept. Read on for our stress busting tips. 

What’s keeping YOU awake?

These five reasons might be the cause of your sleepless nights. But having a game plan to tackle each of them is imperative to functioning properly, both in the (home) office and personally.

Digitisation – how, why, why not?

We’re more reliant on technology than ever before. Videoconferencing and cloud-based data management systems have been characteristic features of firms that were successfully tackling the pandemic. But, accountants may be apprehensive of the record-keeping and data entry services provided by some online software options, particularly if they seem to be replacing their day-to-day activities and coming for their jobs. 

And while the so-called AI anxiety may be rampant, you need not be as threatened as you think.

Digital solutions are not and cannot be the main character. What you can do to make sure that technology works in a supporting and not a directing role is to make the tool work for you – and not be subservient to the tool itself. 

This entails understanding and taking the liberty to mould the tool to your needs and then employing it to get the job done faster and more efficiently. This also means being conscious of when exactly the tool has served its purpose and letting go of it promptly.

Additionally, brainstorm ways in which you and your firm can stand out from the crowd – and the digital solutions coming for your job. In addition to bookkeeping and report-making services, consider including advisory and consulting services in your portfolio. Not only are they less at risk of being driven out by software, but that added human touch makes every piece of advice worth more for both you and your client.

Tip: Go paperless but remain human.

Cybersecurity

Say you have digitised your work processes as well as you can, and your clients are all happy with your frequency and quality of communication. How do you make sure that the data that your clients have entrusted you with does not get into the wrong hands? 

2020 was seen to be the worst year on record for the amount of data exposed, with the number reaching a staggering 36 billion. And while actors of malicious intent were the obvious perpetrators, it’s all too easy for them with misconfigured and easy-to-breach databases. Without wanting to scaremonger, your firm and the client data it holds are potentially just a click away from being robbed.

And you can’t wait for a data breach to happen before you start fortifying your client information repositories. Start taking pre-emptive and preventive measures to reinforce your security firewalls, even if that means hiring more competent IT resources to help you accomplish it. Information security, or InfoSec, should be at the forefront of your employee orientation exercises to equip all new hires with the necessary know-how and know-why of keeping Personally Identifiable Information (PII) in as limited locations as possible.

Also important to know about and prevent are phishing attacks, which were the highest reported internet crime according to the 2020 Internet Crime Complaint Centre Annual Report and rose by as much as 718% in Europe. This is all the more relevant in remote working environments, where already overstressed and under-focused employees are more at risk of being baited by authentic-seeming fraudulent email addresses.

Tip: Secure your online space and click responsibly.

Providing client support, sustainably

Now that your client data is (considerably) safe, what about providing them with the support that they so evidently need? You might be worried thinking about how you can add value to the services you already provide to your clients. In addition to the core accountancy and financial services you provide, emotional and educational support is what clients are increasingly looking for when they shop for accountancy practices. But you already knew that, right?

Whether it’s sending out bulk emails on new government legislation or offering them much-needed emotional support in these unprecedented times, you can always do more to improve your relationship with your clients. Try to go beyond just doing their year-end tax returns and demonstrate your true value. Provide them with transparent, clear financial projections. Be available and accessible to them as and when they require. This will not only get them to stay with you for the long haul but may also get you those sweet, sweet referrals.

Some clients – and their causes – are worth investing emotionally in. This has the potential of getting you even closer to them, increasing not only the business they may offer you but also the quality of services you are able to provide them. Just keep in mind where your personal emotional commitment ends, and your professional responsibility starts so that you do not lose sight of your primary purpose.

Tip: Do enough to attract clients but do even more to retain them.

Deadlines, deadlines, deadlines!

Most individuals feel that theirs is a job more stressful than any other. For accountants, it is a lived reality. With the accuracy and transparency that financial reporting mandates, the overwhelming time pressure does not make it any easier. And research has shown that both time budget pressure and time deadline pressure have cognitive dysfunctional effects on senior and junior financial associates alike. 

So, how can deadline-induced stress be managed, especially so it does not trickle into other aspects of your work and life?

The first and most effective way to handle deadline stress is to stay calm. A stressed-out mind is no-good for productivity. Then, take a step back and look at the problem you are facing practically. How much is there to be done and how much time do you have? Budget your time accordingly and think about ways in which you can work smarter. Another Forbes-approved method of dealing with deadlines is to set fake deadlines for yourself. Getting into the habit of accomplishing time-sensitive tasks well before the deadline approaches gives you more time to polish your work before you submit it and makes it all the more exemplary.

“There is no getting around the pressure of getting work done. It’s the same in your personal life; bills, fees, rent, all need to be paid on time. Work has much more of these packed in your week. The only thing that has worked for me is planning ahead and getting things done. I do miss deadlines sometimes, and that’s okay too. If you are seeing yourself missing more than a few, you might want to reevaluate the timeframes you commit to clients or your supervisors.”  Umar talks about meeting deadlines and how he manages to get work done.

Yet another way to work with multiple deadlines is to break them into bits and prioritise them. Checking a larger number of small tasks off your to-do list gives you a sense of accomplishment that sends you accelerating through the rest of them – a positive feedback loop!

Tip: Turn the time-pressure-induced stress into a driving force for excellence.

Balancing work and personal life

Having done all that you possibly could for both your firm and your clients, you are now trotting a fine line between corporate excellence and a downward spiral into madness. And we agree that work-life balance seems like a mere pie in the sky at this moment. But “balance” might not be what you’re after. Instead, consider looking at work-life integration. A concept seen to surface in the post-pandemic context, it becomes even more relevant and easier to execute while working from home.

To understand it, we first need to absorb the fact that you might not be able to get the same amount of work done in eight solid hours that you would have had working from your office. This might be due to added familial and domestic responsibilities that are unavoidable, especially since you are already home and exposed to them round the clock. Instead of delaying them to the end of the day and forgoing your concentration in the process, try taking a brief break from work to get done with paying your utility bills or reading a story to your child, and then getting back to work undistracted. This might entail you working after hours, but the important thing is not to work longer, but to flex your time so you can work most efficiently.

At least this way, you will be doing focused, value-adding work round the clock instead of aimlessly tiring yourself out.

Look out for other ways to manage stress at work, including reaching out for help, having an open and communicative relationship with your manager, and actively working towards your overall well-being.

Tip: Work smarter, not harder and make sure you take time out when you need it.

With Fluidly, you can get forecasting, planning, funding and debtor management software in one easy-to-use solution to help you save time and work more efficiently.

We’re running a special promotion with 12 months free if you sign up today.

Simply book a demo at a time that suits you.

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