Burnout is more than just physical and mental exhaustion related to work. It is also a condition where employees feel a loss of personal identity and a reduced sense of accomplishment when they complete projects or tasks. People who experience burnout no longer experience joy in what they do and barely have the mental energy to perform. Employee burnout can have rippling effects across organizations, including missed deadlines and a dearth of new ideas and solutions.
While finance can be a lucrative and rewarding career, it is also a field that is known for burning out professionals at all levels of the organizational chart. Burnout can lead to higher turnover rates and can potentially create a toxic office culture.
Employees alone can’t fix problems with burnout. Organizations need to take steps to reduce the effects of burnout and prevent it in the first place. This can be done through a combination of management choices, helpful resources and capable technology that can prepare, compile and review massive amounts of data and automate menial tasks. Use this guide to get to the root cause of burnout in order to support employee well-being.
Factors contributing to burnout in finance professionals
People in almost any career field can experience the feelings of frustration and loss of motivation that come with this condition. Teachers, restaurant workers, doctors and project managers can all decide to leave their companies or their fields because of burnout.
However, there are some unique factors that can lead to employee burnout in the world of finance and accounting. One survey by ReclaimAI found that 58.3 percent of finance and accounting professionals are burnt out by a lack of work-life balance, while 83.3 percent feel like they don’t have enough time for focused work — usually caused by too many meetings, notifications and interruptions throughout the day.
Here are a few causes of burnout in the accounting field, what causes them and how companies can reduce the pressure they put on employees.
High workload and pressure
Accounting professionals often have the combined challenge of a high workload and a high-pressure role. These experts need to juggle multiple portfolios or complete a wide variety of tasks — all without sacrificing accuracy. Depending on the position, errors could make clients lose money, cause poor corporate decisions based on incorrect data or trigger regulatory audits.
Accountants also have high levels of stress because their roles are seasonal. They need to create quarterly reports and file taxes at regular intervals. Both companies and governing bodies, like the IRS and SEC in the U.S., set strict deadlines that cannot be missed.
Working long hours can have a severe impact on mental and physical health. People who work too much can experience high blood pressure, brain fog, irritability and a variety of physical symptoms from poor diet and exercise.
Lack of work-life balance
When finance professionals have high workloads, they often work nights or on weekends to catch up. Not only can this negatively affect the body, but it can also lead to a poor work-life balance that places extra stress on personal relationships.
For example, finance professionals who spend their nights working don’t have downtime to enjoy their favorite hobbies or shows. On the weekends, they can miss society gatherings or important milestones — like their child scoring the winning run in a little league game.
This lost time with loved ones can lead to depression while increasing feelings of stress and guilt for missing out. This can also lead to bitterness toward work for causing this stress.
Monotonous and repetitive tasks
Burnout isn’t just caused by overwork, it is also found in roles with highly repetitive tasks. This leads to a lack of creativity and motivation. Unfortunately, the finance field can be repetitive in certain roles, such as when professionals need to complete the same task over and over without any errors.
Fortunately, this is an area where technology can help. The right software tools can streamline or automate repetitive tasks, even entire audits, which reduces the high workloads of team members. This reduced workload can free up space for employees to work on more meaningful projects and develop creative solutions to move the organization forward.
Limited control and autonomy
Another factor that leads to burnout in accounting is a lack of control. Employees often aren’t able to set their own deadlines or choose the projects they care about. Instead, they need to complete various tasks to protect clients and keep companies compliant with various governing bodies. This lack of control over workload and projects can demotivate some financial professionals.
Even if an employee works in an area where they have control of their work, a poor manager could leave them exhausted. Micromanagement can lead to a loss of confidence or creativity. Employees might give up trying to make a difference and will simply do the minimum their manager asks because they don’t feel valued.
Most finance professionals are smart, competent and eager to do a good job. Placing trust in them can empower them to do their best work and impress you with their abilities.
Tips for preventing burnout in finance
The key to preventing burnout begins with recognizing the causes. Your management team needs to know why your employees are burnt out and the effects this condition is having on your organization.
The next step is to implement better management techniques along with technology that can reduce workload stress for finance jobs.
Here are a few steps to consider if you notice burnout creeping into your workforce.
Foster a supportive culture
Employees can’t control their workloads or the amount of pressure that management puts on them. This means they often have no control over preventing burnout — it needs to start from the top. Management needs to foster a supportive and inclusive work culture where employees can discuss their concerns and feel respected.
Consider providing resources and support systems for employees to seek help and guidance when they are feeling burnt out. Your company can also implement policies regarding the use of personal time and email quiet hours so no one is expected to reply to messages on weekends or late at night.
Identify inefficient workflows
Inefficient workloads waste time and frustrate employees. They either create double work or cause backlogs within organizations. Poor workloads can also create an unhealthy workload distribution, where one employee gets more work than the rest at one time.
Managers can resolve these problems through workload audits and careful task management. They can make sure employee deadlines and expectations are reasonable while the work is evenly spread across the organization. Not only will fairer workloads reduce burnout in overworked employees, but they can also build camaraderie. One team member won’t feel bitter that they are doing more work than their coworkers around them.
Encourage work-life balance
Managers set the tone for work-life balance. If your boss emails you late at night or early on your day off with the expectation that you respond and complete tasks, they are reducing your work-life balance. Companies need to develop policies that ensure managers cannot abuse the free time of lower-level employees.
A few policies that promote work-life balance include remote work with the help of cloud-based technology and flexible work hours — which allow employees to spend more time with their families or do their favorite activities — and use it or lose it vacation policies. These policies require team members to take time off instead of getting paid for not using vacation time. Stepping away from the office, whether for a 15-minute break or a 10-day vacation, is essential for preventing burnout.
Promote mental health and well-being initiatives
Employers can also go the extra mile by actively supporting the mental and emotional health of employees. They can provide regular tips on stress management through employee newsletters, provide counseling to overworked employees and even launch fun initiatives like yoga during lunch breaks.
Keep in mind that these initiatives are a second step that comes after addressing the root cause of burnout. If employees feel too overworked to leave their desks, they won’t feel comfortable spending part of their workday participating in wellness activities. Employees first need to feel safe before they can move forward to improve their mental health.
You don’t need to be an executive leading a high-stress financial enterprise to feel burned out. Lower-level employees can also lose their motivation and feel exhausted by overwork, micromanagement and seemingly impossible deadlines. However, companies that take steps to address and prevent burnout will see better long-term results in the form of reduced turnover and higher productivity.