The Future of Work

How Teams Can Avoid a Burnout Crisis With an Employee-First Mindset — Part 2

About the Author: Katie Thomas, CPA, is a content creator, 2021 40 under 40 CPA Practice Advisor recipient, and the owner of Leaders Online, where they help accounting professionals increase their impact, influence, and income through thought leadership and digital marketing. To get in touch with Katie, feel free to visit Leaders Online or connect with her on LinkedIn

This is part two of our series on how accounting teams can avoid a burnout crisis with an employee-first mindset. If you haven’t read part 1, check it out here

Creating a culture that values mental health and well-being, and incorporating technology and innovation to streamline workflow is just the start to how teams can help avoid the burnout crisis. But, what more can and should teams be doing? Let’s dive into that now! 

Promote Flexibility BUT Never Take Advantage

You’ve built a company culture that focuses on employees first and incorporated cutting-edge technology into your department. Now, what?

Promote flexibility.

I remember when I was working in public accounting. I was able to leave the office to eat dinner with my family, but I was expected to log back into work right after dinner and late into the night.

Granting employees freedom and offering flexibility is crucial to eliminating employee burnout.

A few important tips to remember are:

  • Set times when employees must be logged online (remote workers) or need to be in the office. Otherwise, be flexible.
  • Enable people to work from home by embracing technology solutions like FloQast, but don’t take advantage of this. Don’t ask Sally to log in at 5 PM on Sunday because she can.
  • Be conscious of scheduling meetings. Meetings are essential but set boundaries to ensure meetings don’t take up the entire day. Employees need time to get work done.

The key takeaway here is to be flexible and understand that accounting professionals need flexibility but don’t take advantage of flexibility. Give your people time to unplug from work.

Communication is Key

Communication plays a vital role in preventing burnout among employees. To gauge whether you’re doing enough to support a healthy work/life balance, you need to know how employees feel. 

Adopt an open-door policy between leadership and staff — and vice versa. Employees should feel comfortable talking about issues they’re experiencing or sharing ideas on improving policies. 

Communication also means setting boundaries and clear expectations.

  • Make sure that the staff understands what’s expected of them. 
  • Learn to say no. This rule applies to both leaders and staff. If a staff member feels like their plate is already full, they should feel comfortable saying “no.”

Cultivate a culture where mental health and well-being aren’t stigmatized but instead discussed openly, honestly, and candidly. In all things, communication is critical, and mental health is no exception to that rule.

Encourage Employees to Focus on Their Health and Wellness

A big part of why employees get burnout is because they don’t have time to care for themselves. They’re exhausted after work. They go home, go to bed and repeat the cycle. 

Breaking this vicious cycle has to start at the top. Create a culture that encourages accountants to prioritize their health and wellness. Give them time and check in regularly to ensure they’re doing well. 

Give Employees Time

A healthy work/life balance is crucial to the happiness and well-being of your employees and for productivity. 

You can’t expect employees to work 16 hours and be as productive as they would be working two eight-hour days. Those after-work hours give employees time to exercise, eat well, spend time with their family and explore hobbies or personal interests.

For everyone to feel and perform at their best, they need those hours to rest and enjoy life.

  • Research has shown that REM sleep is crucial for performance. 
  • Exercise can boost concentration, motivation, and productivity.
  • Spending time with friends and family can improve mood and overall outlook on life.
  • Healthy eating habits can reduce sick time and help employees feel energized.

Having time off is important at the end of the day, but employees also need longer breaks to stay happy and healthy. 

Encourage your employees to plan vacations and take some time to unplug. And when they’re on vacation, respect their time. For example, don’t send emails or call them. Instead, allow them that time to disconnect from work altogether. 

Check-in With Employees and Value Their Well-Being 

A large percentage of accountants (about 51%) say their job causes stress and anxiety.

Teams can take steps to change this narrative by creating a more balanced workplace that prioritizes mental health and well-being.

Ensure that you’re checking in with employees one-on-one and that your culture encourages this. Even if your culture promotes a healthy work/life balance, you don’t want employees slipping through the cracks and dreading going to work. Regular check-ins can help prevent this.

Along with check-ins, make sure that you’re valuing their well-being. Consider the below tips: 

  • Promote physical fitness by offering gym memberships to make it easier for employees to stay active or hosting team fitness challenges to get everyone involved.
  • Fuel your employees with fresh fruit and healthy snacks.
  • Take an interest in what your employees do outside of work.
  • Encourage employees to take up new interests that aren’t work-related.

When your team says it values mental health and well-being, show it by encouraging them to lead active, balanced lives in and out of the workplace.

We Have to Do Better

We all go through seasons where we work more than we want to, but that doesn’t have to be the norm. We have to do better. 

A great place to start is to create a company culture that promotes creative freedom, communication, flexibility, and values the well-being of employees. Accountants need to find work/life balance, and it’s impossible when teams expect more and more from their workers.

We can — and should — do better for our teams and employees. Being flexible with time, having open communication, and leading by example cultivate a healthy work environment that benefits organizations and employees. It’s a win-win for everyone involved, and it can start with making small, incremental steps today.