7 Ways to Manage Work-Related Stressby
The first week of November is National Stress Awareness Week. For both your physical and mental health, it's crucial to take care of yourself. Ford Baker offers his tips for hard-working CPAs to relieve stress.
The public accounting industry is notorious for long hours, late nights, and an overwhelming amount of stress. CPAs get stuck in their offices trying to gather information from clients and put last year’s numbers on last year’s forms. Especially with all the changes to taxes and financials during COVID-19, CPAs are more stressed than ever.
According to a survey by AvidXchange, almost 50 percent of the participants reported working longer hours since the pandemic began, 58 percent canceled vacations, 25 percent received calls or emails from clients that interrupted their sleep, and 38 percent lost sleep due to work-related stress. How are professionals supposed to last in the public accounting industry like this? CPAs need to know of ways they can reduce stress so they can work more diligently and effectively in their jobs. Here are a few ways for CPAs to reduce stress in their everyday work lives.
1. Work-Life Balance
For many years, I worked as most CPAs do, logging 100 hours during busy season just to get a few tax returns done in time for the deadline. Then, I’d still find myself working 60-hour weeks on a regular basis. After the realization that this was affecting my health, I not only made the decision to prioritize my health but help my employees prioritize their health as well. I think it’s important that I provide my employees with resources that can improve their health such as paying for membership at the local rec center or helping an employee pay for a bike as I’m an avid rider myself.
I also don’t give out my employees personal numbers to our clients. This is a common practice among CPA firms, and one that I put to rest because I realized that by enforcing a stronger boundry from work when they were away from work allowed them to be more effective while they were at work and feel less pressure to “always be on” when away from work.
Resources like these offer employees the chance to have a work-life balance in their lives, so their stress levels are lowered and their hours at work are shorter. You'll see that work-life balance plays a large role in lowering your stress levels as you read some of the tips I’m going to give you.
2. Communicate with Your Supervisors
Not knowing what you should be doing or how to do something can heighten the stress you experience at work. It leaves you with a sense of uncertainty and anxiety about your job. That’s why clear communication should be established at the start of each day or week. You need to be able to approach your supervisor and discuss what tasks you will be handling, as well as how to execute those tasks. Ask questions too if you’re unsure about something! Your supervisor should be open to questions and communicating with you so you can execute your job as best as possible.
And if you are a supervisor initiate these discussions and establish these touch points with your staff from the onset. Clear communication about expectations and reality will help alleviate stress for you and your team.
3. Know Your Limit
It can be easy to say yes to all the work your supervisor or coworkers pass off to you, but you shouldn’t. Why? Because saying yes to everyone and everything creates burnout. This could be where some, if not most, of your stress is stemming from. By taking on more than you can handle, you’re creating a stressful work environment for yourself where you’re always facing deadlines and never have enough time to complete projects. It’s not bad to have limits. We all have them! Find out your limits and know when to stop. Not only will this reduce your stress in the workplace, but you’ll be able to produce work of the highest quality.
4. Move Throughout the Day
It’s no secret that sitting for 8 hours a day isn’t particularly healthy for you. That’s why it’s important to move throughout your typical workday. If you have space in your office building, take a lap around the floor or take a trip to get a coffee or a snack. Sometimes getting zoned into work and not taking breaks can actually increase your stress level. So, any reason to get out of your seat and walk a few steps will be great for refocusing and reducing your stress level.
5. Create Small Rewards for Yourself
Giving yourself small rewards for things is a common technique with studying, and it works great for work-life too! As you work on different tasks or projects, think about how you can reward yourself once you’ve finished something such as a texting break or a second cup of coffee, or maybe going for a walk like we discussed earlier. These little things, like exercise, can help you break up your workday and give you a minute to rest in between tasks, lowering the amount of stress you experience during the day.
6. Get Enough Sleep
Just like taking breaks can be difficult when you’ve zoned into work, getting enough sleep can be hard if you’re a CPA on a time crunch. However, burning the midnight oil will only make your stress worse. It’s important to get a good night’s sleep every night, so you can wake up refreshed and ready to go, not burned out.
7. Create Your Ideal Environment
Your ideal environment is unique to you. Some people prefer chaos, others need order. Create whatever environment that works for you. If you like coming to a clean office in the morning, pick up your things before you leave each day. That way you can come back refreshed mentally and physically. Also, make your office yours if you are allowed to. You spend a lot of time in your office, so you don’t want it to feel stale when you come to work every day. Decorate it with pictures, posters, desk decorations, or whatever you’re feeling if your office lets you do those sorts of things. It will make you feel happier and more comfortable in the office.
Working 40 hours, and often times many more for CPAs, can jeopardize your health and create an overwhelming amount of stress for you. That’s why it’s important that you work to lower your stress levels, so you can enjoy your job more and take less stress home with you.
Ford Baker is a 1986 graduate of Texas A&M University with a degree in accounting before beginning his career in Public Accounting. He earned his CPA and has over 30 years of experience, first in audit, and then changing to tax before he founded The BaCo Group, PLLC, over 20 years ago. After a realization that his personal life was out of...