How accountants can cope with the stress of COVID

Accountants have always worked with people and businesses who are experiencing some level of stress around their finances. However, their role to support them and look at ways to keep them viable has significantly increased through COVID-19. More and more businesses are needing help on how they can cut costs, restructure, and survive the unpredictable coming months and even years.

Most accountants enjoy their jobs, but their roles can be very stressful and at times quite lonely, and the current climate is only amplifying this reality as so many businesses lean on their accountants to help them find ways to deal with losses and a struggling economy. The reality is that accountants are under increasing stress across the country as businesses face the fight of their lives.

While accountants are often in need of support, they are usually the ones providing support. They could actually be the people best placed in society to help individuals facing mental health problems that are a result of financial stress. After all, if your business is facing financial problems, you’re far more likely to hire an accountant than a psychologist.

An accountant will never be able to replace a trained mental health professional, but they can at least know the benefit of asking: are you ok? Accountants need to be able to empathise with a client’s situation and comfort them in times of stress. Given the state of the current environment, accountants need to ensure they are looking after themselves too.

The mental health of accountants is something we should all be aware of, especially at this time. I’ve put together some tips to help accountants manage the stress.

1. Talk to colleagues

Coffee breaks, microwave meetings, work parties, networking nights – many of which can be done via ZOOM, are all great ways to connect with your colleagues. At the end of the day, no one knows the true emotional toll that accountants face than another accountant.

I also encourage accountants to approach their bosses with some ideas to reduce stress in the office and create a positive environment for everyone. This could be regular mental health morning teas or creating a more collaborative office set up.

2. Separate yourself from your clients

Separating your clients’ emotions and your own is critical. Working within an emotionally challenging field you want to feel for your clients but you do not want to feel like them. If you do not create this distance you will risk undermining your own health and ability to help them.

When you are helping a client through a difficult situation it is natural to connect with their emotions. However it is important to remember that emotional distancing does not make you less caring, just more clear headed and less of a potential burnout case.

3. Open up with family

Keeping your family in the loop with how you are feeling is a great step in ensuring you are supported at home. If your family is aware that you are feeling stressed, sad, angry or frustrated at work, they can help you create a routine to leave these emotions at the front door before you enter your safe space.

No one likes working on the weekends, so put practices in place to avoid taking home your emotional workload or compartmentalise work and home life.

4. Create a stress-free zone

A stress-free zone could be for the whole office, or just for you. Declaring a stress-free zone will give you the opportunity throughout your workday to momentarily take a break from your desk. This zone could be a quiet space in your office building, home, or a bench in a local park.

Coco Hou, CPA, Managing Director, Platinum Accounting

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