As staffing issues and the talent gap crisis continues, accounting and consulting firms should do what they can to focus on retaining the talent they already have. This means addressing the problem of employee burnout. If you want to keep your best employees, you need to take some responsibility for their health and happiness in the workplace.
Employee burnout is incredibly pervasive. 75% of employees say they have experienced burnout and nearly 70% of professionals feel that their organization isn’t doing anything to help with this problem. By creating a work culture that prevents burnout, you’ll be setting yourself apart from competing firms.
Why should your firm pay attention to employee burnout?
Accounting and consulting firms are people-driven organizations, meaning your employees are the key to your success! One significant symptom, and an early warning sign of burnout, is decreased productivity.
It’s estimated that each day, one million workers miss work due to stress. According the American Psychological Association, 59% of all workers experienced negative impacts from work-related stress in the last 30 days, and stressed employees are more than 3 times more likely to be actively seeking out different employment.
While decreased productivity is an important financial reason to prioritize addressing employee burnout, it also has some catastrophic health implications for your team. In the US alone, roughly 8% of money spent on healthcare (approximately $190 billion annually) was caused by workplace stress. 120,000 deaths can also be attributed to workplace stress each year.
To have a healthy, productive workforce, addressing employee burnout must be a top priority.
How do you spot employee burnout at your financial advisory firm?
As mentioned above, decreased productivity is one of the top signs of employee burnout. However, other signs may appear far sooner, helping you spot the problem before it develops and spreads. Here are some other early warning signs of employee burnout:
Inability to make decisions
Decreased motivation or enthusiasm for work
Detachment from team and company events
Higher sensitivity to feedback
Persistent lethargy or exhaustion
Ideally, firms would prevent employee burnout before these symptoms begin to appear in their team members. To successfully do this, it’s important to understand what causes burnout to begin with. According to a Gallup survey, these are the top five reasons for employee burnout:
Unfair treatment in the workplace
An unreasonable, over-burdened workload
Unclear expectations for their role
Ineffective or nonexistent communication and support from their supervisor
Pressure from unreasonable time expectations
With many firms offering work-from-home or hybrid work schedule, it’s even more important to understand and look out for these early warning signs since you won’t be face-to-face with your employees as often as you did before the pandemic.
What can you do to prevent it?
Frequently, rather than addressing the root causes of burnout, companies try to reverse the effects with more money, fancy titles, or fun perks. However, these actions offer limited, short-term relief and can even backfire. For example, if a department is suffering from a budget issue, adding a pool table in the break room may seem like a waste of money that they could have used to alleviate some of their constraints.
What, then, can firms to do to prevent and eliminate employee burnout?
Make Mental Health a Part of Your Culture
Letting your team know that taking care of themselves mentally is not only acceptable but encouraged can go an incredibly long way in preventing burnout. A corporate wellness program can be a great way to get out in front of potential problems and to signal very clearly that your firm takes mental wellness seriously.
Action is important here. Fluff programs that have no follow up, no accountability, and no one from management participating amount to little more than lip service, which can have the opposite effect.
Ensure that your health benefits include coverage for mental health providers like therapists. Offer mental health days and make sure leadership normalizes using the benefit by taking their own mental health days.
Consider Perks that Offer Real-Life Benefits
Many firms try to boost morale and prevent burnout by offering additional perks, like fancy coffee options, game rooms, or fully stocked bars. Sure, these can be fun in the short term, but ultimately, if an employee is feeling stressed because of the amount of work they have, playing a game in the middle of the workday won’t feel like a good use of their time.
Instead, try to think about adding perks that will have real-world impacts on their day-to-day stresses. Perks like pet sitting, dog walking, grocery delivery, or after-school childcare activities have long lasting benefits. These types of perks alleviate yet another thing your team members must worry about and figure out to be present at work.
Offer Flexibility Whenever Possible
Every person on your team is dealing with their own unique situations. They are people who have families (whether it be children, elderly parents, troublesome nephews, new puppies, and everything in between) they are responsible for. A one-size-fits-all set up won’t work for the majority of your team, so whenever possible, try to offer flexible work options (such as flexible hours over a strict 9-5), that your employees can use to adapt to their situation.
For example, audit, tax, and advisory firm Grant Thornton recently implemented summer half days on Fridays, compressed work week options, and flexible time off rather than predetermined set of paid days off.
Improve Communications in Both Directions
The majority of the root causes for workplace stress boil down to poor communication. Employees are unsure what their expectations are or feel unsure how their work is being received. They also feel disconnected from decisions that impact them. Instead, implement two-way communication channels.
Trying to decide what perks would be most beneficial for employee stress levels? Ask. Listen.
Provide clear job descriptions with clear success plans so that every member of the team feels invested and set up for success.
Have regular check ins between team members and their supervisors – not for performance reviews which can feel like one sided judgments – but for a collaborative conversations where both sides can share what’s working and what isn’t.
Use Technology to Automate Repetitive Tasks
Recent studies discovered that monotonous work can be harmful to mental health and lead to stress and burnout for workers. Additionally, the TOP reason professionals claim they seek out a new job is boredom.
Prevent this at your firm by offering programs where employees can allocate time and resources towards special projects. Encourage cross-team collaborations where team members may work with members from different teams on tasks they wouldn’t normally do. Look for support tools, like Strongbox, that eliminate menial tasks like tracking down financial documents and manual data manipulation.
For example, accounting firm Citrin Cooperman saw explosive growth last year. Partner Syvlie Gadant saw that using Strongbox “saved our team hundreds of hours at the onset of engagements.” Instead of her TAS team devoting extensive time to arduous administrative tasks, they got hundreds of hours back that could instead be used for more meaningful, engaging work.
You’ll end up not only with a happy workforce but also the benefits of their innovations and improved efficiencies.
Feel and Perform Better
Burnout is not inevitable. You can prevent (or even reverse) burnout by making cultural changes in the way you manage and lead your team. By addressing the root causes of stress and burnout at your firm, you can help your team feel and perform their best. Tools like Strongbox are one part of the equation. Contact us today if you’re ready to help your team eliminate mundane tasks and take true ownership over their meaningful work.