Looming deadlines, overlapping priorities, the ever-recurring monthly close, quarterly financial statements and tax time — it’s no wonder accounting and finance professionals are feeling stress in the workplace.
Not only is stress on the job common, but it’s also on the rise, according to an Accountemps survey. More than half (52 percent) of workers said they are overwhelmed at work on a day-to-day basis, and six out of 10 reported work-related pressure has increased in the last five years.
Workplace stress can trigger increased health risks and and take a toll on your sleep. According to new research from Accountemps, more than four in 10 professionals (44 percent) often lose sleep over work. Common causes for restlessness are an overwhelming workload, a looming business problem and strained coworker relationships.
If you’re a manager or CFO, asking your team to do more work with fewer resources can lead to diminishing returns. If you work for a manager or CFO, the heavier the workload, the more it can add to stress, as you try to balance demands of the job with personal responsibilities.
What can you do about stress in the workplace?
Accounting and finance professionals say they combat stress at work with exercise — yoga, walking and running, especially. They also spend time with friends or partners after work, listen to music, go on vacations and engage in a hobby, such as gardening and reading.
You can also do these five things:
- Reach out for help. If you’re buried with too many projects and your to-do list is never-ending, it’s possible you have too much on your plate. Seek advice from your manager on meeting expectations and discuss possible solutions to alleviate the pressure you’re feeling, such as adjusting deadlines or delegating.
- Take control of your schedule. Some of the ways you can do that are to keep track of how you’re doing with time management, prioritize your tasks, block your calendar and delegate. Plan for time out of the office, and help your boss prepare for your absence so all important projects are covered.
- Get up from your chair. Breaks at work are good for you, so try to stretch every hour, take the stairs instead of the elevator and stand during conference calls.
- Maximize your workday. There are ways to get more out of your day so you can reward yourself at the end. One of them is to “just say ‘no!’” Before leaving work, write down top priorities to accomplish the next day. Keep a separate list for personal to-do’s to help you manage priorities. Get more ideas in 15 Tips to Boost Productivity in the Workplace.
- Take a break with a vacation that's a true escape from work.
Managers: Is it time for reinforcements?
If you’re a manager, you can also lower your own stress by doing those things. But how do you know when you’ve reached a breaking point of stress in the workplace because of a too-lean workforce? Here are signs it may be time to expand your accounting and finance team with a new hire:
- You’re missing growth opportunities — You have sufficient financial resources to pursue new business, but your staff can’t handle the stepped-up workload it would entail — so you wait instead of growing.
- New business isn't making you smile — Maybe you secured a new account, but instead of celebrating, you or your employees are worrying about how to get it all done.
- Even top performers can't keep up — Communication with your ace employees is suffering, and they’re missing deadlines constantly.
- Overtime is becoming the norm — It isn’t just around peak seasons or big projects anymore. Overtime has become the rule rather than the exception, and work is starting to invade the home space.
- You're pitching in too often — Good managers know when to roll up their sleeves and pitch in, but now you’re doing the work of three employees.
- Staff members are out sick more often — Your team is using plenty of sick days, and not just for sleeping in. Overwhelming workloads may be impacting their health.
- Errors are on the rise — In a rush to get all the work done, your team is making more mistakes than in the past. When pressed, they explain they just don’t have time to re-check their work before moving on.
- Clients are noticing — Dissatisfied customers are speaking up more often about missed deadlines, poor work quality and spotty communication.
If you’re encountering any of these signs of stress in the workplace, you can support your team by allowing more flexible schedules and bringing in reinforcements. Using a combination of full-time employees and highly skilled temporary professionals in accounting can help you staff up or down cost-effectively, in response to business demand.
With so much to do and time running short, it’s easy for your staff to fall behind. Some managers don’t have a clue and fail to notice. Make sure you don’t fall into that trap.
Meanwhile, get some sleep! And as Michael Steinitz, executive director of Accountemps, advises, make sure you avoid burnout and take some time off.
Take a look at this slideshow, which shows just how common stress on the job has become.
Editor's note: This post was recently updated with new survey information.