Why accountants can’t afford to ignore wellbeing

I’m always finding stories in the media about wellbeing in the workplace, or the lack of it. As a nation, we are under more strain than ever – both physically and mentally. We’re tired, stressed and overweight, and, as a result, we’re lagging behind our G7 peers when it comes to productivity… another issue we’re reminded about on a near-constant basis.

The workplace has not helped this situation, and has changed dramatically in recent years, making the situation increasingly untenable. It used to be the case that, once the workday finished, leaving work meant switching off until you got back into the office the next day. This is, sadly, no longer the case. Technology enables us to keep an eye on work whenever, wherever. According to CV Library, the first and last thing a quarter of accountants do is check their emails – this connection to work must stop.

It intrudes on our evenings, our weekends and our holidays – no wonder our research has shown that 58 per cent of 2,000 employees have experienced reduced mental wellbeing, due to poor personal wellbeing at work.

Wellbeing and the ability to connect with ourselves

As technology has connected us to the workplace, the trade-off has been the loss of our ability to connect with ourselves. The result is that the working population’s health is deteriorating rapidly, with rising levels of obesity and mental illness. To rectify this situation we need to take action now, to reclaim our work-life balance and prioritise our wellbeing. This means changing less progressive attitudes towards wellbeing and encouraging the industry to open up about pressure.

I don’t underestimate how hard this will be. It takes a lot of courage to push back on workload, especially for those wishing for career progression or wanting to make a good impression. However, if we are to improve our physical and mental wellbeing by reclaiming our free time, this is a necessary first step.  These conversations can be very difficult at first, as no one wants to be seen as a shirker. However, the rationale that taking the time to recover and relax boosts the next day’s productivity has been proven over and over, and I would urge anyone at work to take steps – big or small – to enhance their wellbeing.

Life-blood of our economy

Accountancy is the life-blood of our economy, and its success is vital in keeping this country on track. However, it’s also time to acknowledge that the industry has evolved, and therefore attitudes on work-life blend need to too. Careers are now expected to last longer than ever, so we need to treat the period as a marathon, not a sprint.

Whether it’s taking the time to visit the gym three times a week or going for a lunchtime walk, we must not forget the benefits of getting away from our desks. The irony is, the more time we spend at work, the more our performance will suffer, as we can’t operate at our optimum when tired, anxious or demotivated. A small amount of pressure is good for us – continuous, peak levels are not. If we are to become more productive and help keep Britain as one of the premier international financial powerhouses we must accept the important role personal wellbeing has to play, otherwise we’ll soon discover the dire results.

 For more information and tips on wellbeing, see hereCABA, on stand 1146 at Accountex next week, provides free independent support for past and present ICAEW members and their families.

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Kath Haines, CEO of CABA

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