We need a mental health plan By David Smith on Nov 6, 2022
At our recent Young Guns event, we invited Petris Lapis (www.artisanofchange.com) to talk about Mental Health in accounting firms.
For us older practitioners, this is quite a different world from the world we grew up in and established our careers. Mental health was not something that was really discussed. It was like there was a pact between employer and employee that neither discussed it and the employee, except in severe cases, suffered in silence with not a lot of support.
In the last few years, many businesses have begun to provide assistance to their team. Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) have been created that enable employers to offer free, independent and confidential counselling to their team on a range of issues including interpersonal issues, grief, trauma and stress. They can also provide information to promote a healthier lifestyle, exercise programs and training programs on such topics as time management to also assist in reducing stress. There are many providers of these programs with packages suitable for employers of all sizes. For more information regarding EAP programs, there is a professional body for practitioners which can be found here: www.eapaa.org.au/site
More recently, COVID has brought its own challenges. Working from home has not been easy for some and there has been anxiety more generally from the impacts of the pandemic. Many firms have reported higher rates of sick leave. It is probable that COVID has forever changed workplace attitudes and standards.
We are also seeing a greater focus on working conditions. Recent articles have occurred in the media regarding the working conditions in the Big 4 accounting firms. When I was young it was pretty much normal to work long hours to meet deadlines. The world is now changing for the better. Working under constant stress is not good for anyone’s health or mental well-being. There is now the potential for businesses to be penalised.
It is in everyone’s interest to strive for an environment fostering mental health. Of course, many may still be challenged, however, a positive and supportive environment will help.
The dividend to business is that a mentally healthy team will have more energy, more resilience, more confidence, and a desire to learn new things and adapt to change. The environment in your business will be more positive, more fun, and more energetic.
Recent research by Chartered Accountants worldwide revealed that 55% of accountants are suffering from stress and burnout. With the resourcing challenges firms are facing there is the danger that this figure might only increase. The research also revealed that the complex and exacting nature of an accountant’s work (shared with other professions) also adds to workplace stress.
I am no expert on mental health. It is inappropriate for me to offer solutions. Businesses should engage experts to assist them to build their strategy to address the issue of workplace mental health. Some of the strategies should be focussed on preventative – issues such as diet, exercise, and sleep while other parts of the strategy need to be focussed on identifying and assisting those in need. Training programs need to incorporate topics focussed on mental health issues.
Every business should have a strategy. It should be on your next board or management meeting agenda. If in place, it should be regularly reviewed.
This was the first time we included a focus on Mental Health in our Young Guns program. The feedback on the session was overwhelmingly positive and was rated as one of the best sessions. Clearly, our participants think that this is a topic of importance.
Perhaps you should have a chat with our presenter Petris Lapis ([email protected]) who can help you develop your strategy on this increasingly important topic.