With this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week running from 14-20 May, AAT (Association of Accounting Technicians) spoke to professionals in the accounting and bookkeeping industry to find out their perspective on stress in the workplace. One in eight (16%) of those people we spoke to admitted that stress caused by work has forced them into taking at least a week off, with six per cent saying the stress was enough for them to leave their role.
While individuals in accountancy who have never had to take time off due to stress still dominate the survey, the amount who have – some one in three people in total – is itself a cause for concern. Recent research from Mind produced even more startling figures suggesting that some 42 per cent of workers have considered resigning due to stress and mental health, while according to Business in the Community, three in four employees across all industries have experienced symptoms of poor mental wellbeing.
It’s crucial that if you’re in a position where taking time off work due to stress is something you have either already done or are close to doing, you should act now to make a change. Here’s some suggestions as to how to act:
Firstly, speak with your manager. They may have no idea that you are struggling and in truth, keeping an eye on your wellbeing is part of their managerial duty, however unsympathetic their character may be.
We spoke with Annie Donovan, Chief Executive of KIM Inspire, a non-profit organisation that aims to provide routes to emotional well-being through activities and group work, about this. She said:
“Managers can keep an eye on workloads, on people’s time, so staff are not over working and have a healthy balance with their home life. It’s useful for managers to look at activities which could release stress for their staff, like time for some exercise or doing something a bit different. There’s lots of things that managers can do to help make things better for their team.”
If talking to your manager doesn’t work, then contact your HR department, who should be well-trained and prepared to discuss health issues with you – be they issues caused by work or pre-existing conditions that you might have.
It’s quite possible that your employer already has a stress at work policy, aiming to provide an environment where employees can get the necessary support mechanisms that they require. Indeed, the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 requires employers to take reasonable steps to look after mental health and welfare, in order to enable you to cope with the normal day-to-day pressures of your job. Flexible working, increased holiday entitlements, and an employee counselling service are all provisions made by some workplaces as options to help deal with the impact of workplace stress.
Consider learning and development opportunities. Your stress may well be caused by your inability to deal with certain tasks that you meet on a regular basis. There may be quick fixes out there – it might even be that the technology exists to take some of the burden off your existing in-tray.
If you’re still not getting anywhere, then considering a change of job could help. This will give you a whole new environment, the time and ability to learn new procedures and ways of working, and a new team and potential support network around you on a daily basis.
Finally, changing career entirely could see you find something you enjoy doing, which lets you wake up every morning and feel excited about the day ahead, rather than dreading it.
In any event, trust your own mind with any action you take. Annie Donovan also told us: “It’s usually the person who is struggling with mental health who will know the kind of things they need, what will take the pressure off and alleviate some stress.”
According to the Health and Safety Executive, “Being under a certain amount of pressure can have a positive impact on work performance; however, if the pressure becomes excessive, it can lead to stress, which may have a detrimental effect on physical and mental health.” Stress may indeed be defined as a ‘disability’ under the Disability Discrimination Act in some circumstances, so if you’re suffering from it, the decision you take shouldn’t be taken lightly. Seeking help is a must, but if this doesn’t work, don’t be afraid to consider a change of scene as the best thing for your health.
AAT surveyed 417 students, licensed members and professional members via its ‘Green Room’ polling facility between 20 September and 3 October 2017.
AAT is the UK’s leading qualification and professional body for technical accountants and bookkeepers, and has over 140,000 members in over 100 countries.
About Olivia Hill
Olivia Hill is Chief HR Officer at AAT, the UK’s leading qualification and membership body for vocational accountants.