Managers must spot signs of staff stress

THE FIGURES SAY that we are back in recession but, to some people working in accountancy, it feels as though we never really left.

For them, the last few years have been incredibly difficult and accountants have felt a degree of pressure that has probably been unprecedented during their careers. Almost everywhere, workload has increased markedly and, in some organisations, there have been wave after wave of redundancies.

In a number of workplaces, despite a slight rise in business confidence, there is a sense of an ongoing grind, one which is increasingly taking its toll on members of the profession.

At CABA, we are receiving more and more calls from accountants who feel that the stresses of their work life have taken them to breaking point.

Common experiences are predictable but no less damaging because of that fact: job insecurity, pressure from managers, and excessive workload are leading to stress symptoms such as anxiety, sleeplessness and a feeling of loss of control. These in turn snowball into health problems both mental and physical.

Accountancy has always been a job that is sometimes very stressful and in which the most common response to pressure is to keep a stiff upper lip, but almost unrelenting anxiety over the years since the credit crunch first hit in 2007 is taking a worrying toll on some individuals.

A key part of the solution, we believe, lies with managers. All would, of course, agree that there is nothing to be gained from pushing members of staff to a point where they become ill and are signed off from work. However, some managers can be poor at recognising when this process is happening.

They themselves need guidance to become better at identifying symptoms and, effectively, helping their staff to take a break from the recession when they need one.

Some, more progressive, employers are leading the way. We are now working with a number of organisations where the effects of stress are recognised and best-practice ideas written into company health and safety policies.

A few simple steps that cost little in terms of time, money and effort can help to minimise the way in which stress affects both individuals and organisations, and CABA offers a wide range of free courses and resources designed for both managers and those lower on the ladder.

We are clearly living through difficult times and many businesses are tightly focused on turning a profit to the exclusion of almost everything else. However, there are undeniable benefits in recognising the direct link between the wellbeing of organisations and the wellbeing of their people.

Kath Haines is chief executive of the Chartered Accountants’ Benevolent Association

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