How to avoid career burnout at partner level

How to avoid career burnout at partner level

In a world where pressure to excel in your career is mounting, Accountancy Age looks at how you can thrive in the top spot without burning out

Partners in accountancy firms have a lot of responsibility. They lead, coach, manage, make decisions, and think about the strategic direction of their business as well as representing the business at events and working with all the teams sitting under them.

This means travelling and working in different locations, answering to a huge number of different people, and feeling an immense responsibility to do your very best in this role. It doesn’t help that emails can be accessed 24/7 now and so it is easy to work all day and then continue working into the night.

Technological progression means more is possible and naturally more is expected of us in our working lives. There is a mentality that in a competitive jobs market only those who dedicate everything to their career can hope to reach the top, but this can have a negative impact on our health.

What is career burnout?

Career burnout is especially common among perfectionists; people who work incredibly hard and are always thinking about what they can do next.

Accountancy is a particularly competitive industry. With excellent progression opportunities, desirable salaries, and the chance to get involved in fascinating work, many people want to follow an accountancy career but this means that making it to partner roles or equivalent is hard work.

Career burnout is not just feeling a bit tired. It is pushing yourself to the limit for such a long time that eventually you find yourself constantly unable to think straight. Perhaps you even come to the decision that you cannot carry on like this, or someone else points this out to you.

Why does it happen?

It happens for a multitude of reasons and the extent of pressure that people can handle before burning out is different depending on the individual.

In some instances, the pressure the individual puts on themselves leads to eventual burnout, and in others it is the demands of their job role and the atmosphere surrounding them in the workplace. It might be a combination of the two.

As expected, burnout increases in times of economic uncertainty, when workloads increase and there is less job security. With multiple factors impacting the current job market, from the rise of the gig economy to automation, employees are more likely to push themselves to the limit to ensure they pursue a successful career.

Recognise the signs

Burn-out can be difficult to recognise at first, and it can creep up on you, but a combination of worrying symptoms will usually help you to identify it and then take action.

Broadly it is both physical and mental exhaustion in your daily life. A severe change in behaviour may also indicate burn-out. For instance, someone who is usually sociable who becomes withdrawn or stops putting themselves out there, or someone who started off passionate and excited about their career, but has become down or negative about it.

From a personal perspective, you might notice burn-out symptoms in yourself, for example dreading work, trying to get out of it, and not feeling like you believe in what you are doing anymore.

Physical symptoms can also set in, including regular headaches, sleeping issues, stomach pain, and generally feeling unwell or getting ill very often.

How to prevent it

Aside from having to deal with these awful feelings, people who have career burnout often worry about the affect it has on their personal lives and fear that stress will have long-time physical affects on their health.

It’s important to be aware of burnout and try to catch it before it sets in. Some ways to prevent it are:

  • Be reflective. If you are consistently working far more hours than you are contracted to, this should be flagged with your manager and addressed.
  • Consider your health. If you are feeling low physically or mentally this is a sign and needs to be looked at. Seek professional medical help and speak to someone you trust about this.
  • Be kind to yourself. In a world of targets, to-do lists, and competition it is very easy to write down unrealistic goals for yourself and feel terrible when you don’t meet them but this can be a recipe for burnout. Seek advice online or from a colleague about how to set yourself challenging but achievable goals.
  • Approach your employer. Companies have to be aware of employee wellbeing now if they want to stay desirable to top candidates so don’t be afraid to approach someone else in the business and say you are worried about burning out. Ask if your company has anything to help and broach the subject of dealing with the issue, for example by addressing your current workload.

Can your company help you?

It is not just individuals who worry about career burnout and its affects. It impacts companies if employees push themselves and end up needing time off work or even leaving the business, and so it is in the interests of businesses to ensure this doesn’t happen.

Accountancy firms are realising that they must endeavour to look after the mental as well as physical health of their employees, and they must promote wellbeing within their workforce.

They have responded by both implementing official initiatives surrounding mental wellbeing and living a healthy lifestyle, and answering their employees’ desires around flexible working and a good work-life balance.


Maintaining a healthy work-life balance as an accountant is vital if you want to be successful in the long-run and, more importantly, be happy in your career. The ideal attitude towards working can be achieved both by the company promoting the balance and encouraging healthy habits in their workforce, and the individual accepting that mental wellbeing has to be a priority.


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