The vast majority of CFOs expect work for finance employees to become more stressful by 2020, according to a global survey Robert Half UK conducted with 1,800 respondents.
Concerns about stress were widespread amongst executives in 13 countries, the survey suggests. In the UK, for example, 78% of CFOs predicted that finance jobs would get more demanding. The results were similar in countries such as Germany, Chile, and Singapore.
Despite the executives’ grim expectations, relatively few companies had taken action, according to Robert Half UK. Only 34% of respondents said that their departments regularly discussed health and wellness. About 53% allowed flexible work schedules, while 39% encouraged employees to give feedback to management.
Stress on the job is already prevalent amongst finance professionals. The looming deadlines, overlapping priorities, ever-recurring monthly close, quarterly financial statements, and tax time they face can even lead to sleeplessness, especially amongst younger employees.
5 tactics to counter stress
To counter the increase in stress, Robert Half suggests these tactics:
Take breaks. Short breaks can offer big health benefits. Set your alarm to force yourself to get up from your desk at regular intervals. Go on occasional head-clearing strolls, preferably outside. Stretch and do some light exercise. Refill your water bottle. Meet a co-worker in the break room for a snack and some chitchat.
True breaks are needed to fully recharge and recalibrate your approach to the job. Studies have shown that people are happier and more productive when they take time off. Having your feet in the sand but your fingers scrolling through your Outlook calendar is not “disconnecting”. If you truly lack the resources to take an extended break, schedule a few long weekends throughout the year or even a midweek day off here and there to relax and focus on yourself.
Never let conflicts fester. Given the amount of time you spend with your creative colleagues, you’re bound to bump heads from time to time. The problem comes when the tension is never addressed effectively. Try to nip problems in the bud. Stewing leads to stress, and you risk damaging your own career if you lack the ability to be seen as a team player.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help. If you’re working as hard as you can and still feel buried in projects, don’t suffer in silence. Your manager can’t help you if he or she is not aware of the problem. Before you set up a meeting, think of a few solutions you can suggest that would ease your pressure, such as offloading some of the work to a freelancer or adjusting deadlines.
Try some time management tactics. Identify your most critical and time-sensitive tasks, and then make a prioritised to-do list. If you frequently must dig for files buried underneath piles of sticky notes and lunch receipts, perhaps it’s time to clear the clutter and make a clean sweep. Be willing to tactfully say no sometimes. Also, protect your time by guarding against scope creep. If you’re a hard worker with a reputation for meeting deadlines and fulfilling obligations, don’t feel guilty about occasionally delegating or pushing back against unrealistic expectations or an unmanageable workload.
Practise mindfulness. Mindfulness is about being actively attentive to your situation and your mental and physical responses to it. A few intentional changes, such as mentally preparing for your day, running more mindful meetings, and actively practising stress management, can go a long way towards making the workplace experience less stressful.
— Andrew Kenney is an FM magazine contributing editor based in the US. To comment on this article or to suggest an idea for another article, contact Sabine Vollmer, an FM magazine senior editor, at Sabine.Vollmer@aicpa-cima.com.