Battling Burnout in Your Accounting Team: Strategies That Work

February 11, 2022 Sarah Dameron

CFO working while managing burnout in accounting

Your team members have been acting differently lately. Is it job stress? Or accounting burnout? You may assume that after weeks of measuring performance, analyzing data and closing the books, your top-performing employees are generating lower-quality work due to tiresome days. But you’ve also noticed an uptick in time-off requests and call-ins. Your workers seem spaced-out during meetings. What you’re experiencing is more than just an unengaged or tired team – these are the initial signs of employee burnout.

Burnout has unfortunately become a common occurrence in today’s workplace. Nearly 70 percent of professionals feel like their employers are not doing enough to prevent or alleviate burnout within their organization (Source: Deloitte).

Telltale Signs of Burnout in Your Accounting Team

employee experiencing signs of burnout in the accounting department

Lack of Productivity and Poor Performance

If an employee’s output starts to dip, it might be a sign that they’re checked out. Conversely, it could signal that they’re struggling to tackle their everyday responsibilities with the same enthusiasm and energy they put forth at the beginning. It’s easy to assume that the responsible employee is just a little lax and needs a swift reminder to do their job. However, if your employee has been consistently reliable and all of a sudden, their work ethic does a 180, there’s a likely chance that their decrease in productivity and poor performance is due in part because they’re burnt out.

Negative Attitude

Everyone has bad days – but it’s a red flag if you’re employee is repeatedly complaining or making uncharacteristic remarks. Along with being frosty, an employee that always has a poor attitude suggests their zeal for the job is spent. Moreover, being cynical can have devasting effects on the rest of the team, which can bring down the team’s overall morale.

Increased Mental Distance From Job

Alienating yourself mentally and physically is a common theme amongst burnt out employees. Moreover, burnout doesn’t happen overnight – it’s a slow fade that is a result of multiple events over time. And even though burnt out employees show up to work fulfill their obligated eight hours a day, they’re not presently there. If you look close enough, you’ll discover their lack of participation and contribution is a telltale sign they’re detached from work.

How to Help Accountants With Burnout

Accounting can be stressful and demanding for a number of reasons. Hectic seasons can last more than just a single season. And, the heavy workloads, long work hours and critical managers can make working feel impossible to survive at times. If you’re like most professionals, you’ve probably had these thoughts on repeat:

  • “If I can just get through month-end close, everything will be fine.”

  • “If I can get through tax season, everything will be okay.”

  • “If I can send out all these invoices, everything will be better.”

Sure, you love your job. After all, you wouldn’t be doing it if you didn’t. But after months of 12-hour days upon 12-hour days and never-ending meetings, even the best accountants face burnout. So how can you – a CFO, Controller, or accounting executive – combat burnout in your team?

Tackling Accounting Burnout at the Onset

Provide Autonomy

Despite a changing global workforce in the midst of a pandemic, micromanagement continues to plague companies everywhere, in every industry, across all teams. Too often managers tell their team members what to do, how to do it and when to do it – and that type of leadership is not a recipe for long-term success.

A University of Birmingham study found that employees with higher levels of autonomy in their work reported positive effects on their overall well-being and job satisfaction. So how do you promote autonomy in the workplace?

  • Allow people to make mistakes and learn from them. Mistakes are inevitable. Leaders that are detrimentally critical when errors happen kill employee engagement and instill fear throughout the team.

  • Provide the right tools and technology. Give your employees the resources they need to obtain their goals and the business’s goals.

  • Give them ownership. If you want your employees to be on board with a project, you need to let them help steer the ship. You can also give your team members the opportunity to pilot their own initiatives.

Show Appreciation

It’s hard to feel great about your job if no one ever tells you you’re doing a great job. But you shouldn’t deploy an “everyone gets a trophy” mentality just to appease your whole team. That type of strategy defeats the whole purpose of employee recognition. And if you’re showing meaningful appreciation the right way, your team members will flourish. When you’re acknowledging an employee, you should:

  • Be specific. What exactly did they do to deserve the credit?

  • Be timely. Don’t wait a few weeks after the event has happened to recognize your employee. Waiting loses its value.

  • Describe the impact. Tell your employee the impact of their actions and how that has directly affected the business.

  • Utilize the best platform. Some people thrive on being recognized in a public setting; others prefer a more one-on-one approach.

Promote a Healthy Work-Life Balance

According to Bonus.ly, approximately three million U.S. workers leave their job each month.

Turnover trends like the one above are causing employers to up the ante when it comes to their employee retention strategies. But achieving success in retaining talent can be challenging for another reason: employees are demanding more. And in today’s economy, you have to work extremely hard to recruit and retain great people. Finding ways to create a positive work-life mix for employees is a powerful way to keep them engaged and working for you. Here are a few ways to improve work-life balance for your team:

  • Provide time-off. Overwork is a real thing and can be a contributing factor to employee burnout. Giving employees time off and respecting that time off is crucial.

  • Ask your employee what they want. What matters most to them? Flexible hours? Remote work? Work-life balance can take many forms and it means different things to different people.

  • Lead by example. If you’re answering emails outside business hours or on the weekends, why kind of message are you sending your team? Make sure you practice what you preach because your team will follow your lead.

Burnout Culture Is Here - And It's Affecting Accounting Teams Worldwide

burnt out finance employee working in toxic culture

Decades ago, work ended when you left the office. Now, most of us check and answer work emails well beyond the defined hours of our workday. And as a byproduct of an “always on” culture, today’s accounting professionals are finding it more challenging to mentally and physically separate from work, and stress levels are drastically increasing.

The High Cost of Burning Out in Accounting

The impact of burnout and workplace fatigue is more than meets the eye. It’s tempting to accept burnout as a side effect of doing your job well. And although burnout is not a new concept, it’s becoming more precedent in the workplace as the years go on. The truth is, burnout costs between $125 billion and $190 billion every year in healthcare costs. In fact, researchers estimate that workplace stress accounts for eight percent of national spending on healthcare. But burnout depletes more than a business’s monetary bottom line, it debilitates your most important asset – your employees.

Recharge Your Team With an Outsourcing Strategy

Accounting team working with outsourcing partner on strategy

There are many things that can get in the way of running your day-to-day operations – busy periods, employee turnover, changes to your industry and even a global pandemic. But it’s quintessential to ensure that your employees feel revitalized and sometimes that comes in the form of outside help. And as your company grows, the focus shifts from saving money to making the most efficient use of your time. Each little task or project may seem minute, but those responsibilities soon add up until your plate overflows.

You’ve probably realized you and your team can’t do everything. And after experiencing continual turnover and an unengaged workforce, you’re wanting a change. Rather than asking people to work more than 40 hours a week, hire outside help so that the workload can be manageable. Here at Personiv, we understand the devasting effects of burnout and we realize that offloading those tasks is key to a well-managed business. We’ve partnered with many organizations, across numerous industries, build a finance team without exhausting their revenue, and we can help you too. Get in touch with our virtual accounting experts to learn how outsourcing is the solution to your accounting burnout challenges.

Interested in learning more about employee burnout in accounting? Read our latest playbook, Battling Burnout in Your Finance Team.

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