Is your team overwhelmed? Know the risks, spot the signs, make a change.

The world is in the grip of a public health emergency—and a mental health crisis. Jobs in accounting are seriously stressful at the best of times.

But the pandemic has exacerbated the issue. Pre-COVID, 98% of employees in the accounting sector felt stressed at work

Post-COVID, a massive 35% rated their mental health as ‘bad’, with pandemic-related concerns having a colossal impact on their collective wellbeing. Staff transitioning to work from home overnight, long hours, extra workloads, and accountants becoming intermediaries or middlemen in the implementation of government stimulus funds (such as PPP loans) have worsened the problem. 

As a result, so many people in accounting feel overwhelmed. 

But what happens now?

Many in the industry will continue to experience the psychological repercussions of the pandemic. As accounting managers and team leaders, you have the power to minimize this mental health crisis.

Why should you care about overwhelmed team members? 

Burnout in accounting (and other high-stress industries) is a double-edged sword. Stress has an enormous impact on mental health. It wears people down emotionally and causes depression. But stress also affects physical health, increasing the chances of conditions like insomnia and high blood pressure.

From a business context, team burnout affects productivity in an organization.

Overwhelmed employees experience:

As a manager, you might notice an increase in absenteeism and employee turnover, which can affect your bottom line. In the United States, for example, workplace stress makes up 8% of healthcare spending and costs accounting firms up to $190 billion a year.

Burnout influences every part of an organization.

So, what can you do about it?

Recommended reading: Providing full visibility throughout your firm

Look for the signs of burnout

Before you can help overwhelmed team members, you need to identify the signs of burnout. The World Health Organization (WHO) recognizes ‘burnout’ as an occupational phenomenon with these symptoms:

  • Feelings of exhaustion or energy depletion

  • Negative or cynical feelings related to one's job

  • Decreased professional efficacy

Healthline lists more specific symptoms that you might notice in your team members:

  • Irritability

  • Frequent illnesses

  • Tardiness

  • Isolation

Recognizing these symptoms identifies team members at risk of burnout, and it’s crucial to get on top of the problem early. Your team might operate well, but there is always a chance of workloads piling up and snowballing, and this is when problems start.

You might think you know your team’s capacity, but you cannot accurately assess burnout risk until you implement the right techniques.

Burnout in accounting is more common than you might think. One study reveals that 23% of all workers feel burned out more often than not, while an additional 44% experience burnout ‘sometimes’.

Recommended reading: Why busy doesn’t equal productive (and what the solution is)

How to prevent team members from feeling overwhelmed

Manage workloads 

The most effective way to stop team members from feeling overwhelmed is to remove the triggers that cause stress. A team's workload is the number one cause of stress in the workplace, and is more likely to lead to burnout than lack of job security, people issues, and juggling work and personal responsibilities. 

As a manager, you might not be able to reduce your team's workload, especially during the pandemic, but you can effectively manage it by:

  • Planning your team's workload

  • Delegating tasks to the right people

  • Managing time more effectively 

  • Communicating with employees

  • Encouraging employees to communicate with you

Managing workloads can be an exhausting task, especially if you have a large team. So investing in work management software such as Karbon makes sense. Karbon is an effective resource for managing workloads and preventing burnout. When you manage your team from the office or at home, you can handle workflows with greater precision, communicate with team members quickly, and predict bottlenecks in your firm.

Additional ways to prevent workers from becoming overwhelmed

  • Educate team members about the dangers of burnout

  • Encourage better work/life balance

  • Remind team members to use up their benefits (paid time-off, vacation time, flex-time, etc.)

  • Promote flexible working—it reduces employee burnout

  • Provide team members with tools/resources to manage stress (exercise programs, nutrition guides, meditation apps, discounted gym memberships, etc.)

It's not too late to act

All the tips above might not apply to your team. But these techniques should inspire you to change your organization and prevent team members from feeling overwhelmed.

If employees already exhibit burnout symptoms, it’s never too late to overcome this problem, but you will need to act quickly.