Although speaking about mental health is becoming more accepted in society, unfortunately, the issue of mental health encompasses a complex and often ‘taboo’ subject within the workplace.
The trust clients hold in their accountants is a relationship unlike many others. With 9 out of 10 clients trusting their accountant beyond compliance and more than half of small business operators stating that running their own business has led to feelings of anxiety and depression, largely caused by financial and cash flow concerns, the accounting profession is evolving into a lot more than reconciliation, profit, and loss. Trusted advice does not always have to be all about the numbers, more so a realisation that sometimes it’s more about listening to the person sitting in front of you and what you can do to help them.
With the term ‘accidental counsellors’ being used around accounting firms more frequently, a typical day as an accountant can entail wearing a large array of hats. We may find ourselves dealing with a client-facing bankruptcy, someone going through a messy divorce, a small business owner struggling to support themselves and their family, or someone fighting to get on top of a mountain of debt.
As accountants, we are often working with people and businesses who are experiencing some level of stress about their finances, and we must be careful to ensure we don’t carry and absorb too much of the stress ourselves. This occupational hazard is a natural reaction as there is always a sense of genuine care toward our clients.
We must be conscious about how taking on other people’s stresses and issues can make an impact on our mental health. In Australia, nearly a third of accountants suffer from mental health issues, with more than half admitting depression and anxiety leaves them dreading going to work. We are all guilty of taking our work home with us during particularly busy and demanding times but, having a good work, life balance and feeling comfortable in the workplace is essential to maintaining positive mental health.
Cultivating an environment in which both employees and colleagues feel safe to talk about their mental health and the issues their clients or themselves are facing is vital to maintaining a supportive and collaborative working environment. To tackle the stigma, The Hrkac Group, along with some other leading accountancy firms, are increasingly adopting new measures and initiatives within the workplace.
From basic mental health awareness programs, maintaining open communication within the workplace, senior leaders endorsing mental health as being important, boosting mental health awareness and knowledge within the workplace is continuing to improve.
For further mental health resources, please visit the World Mental Health Day website.
If you or someone you know is suffering from mental health issues, please contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.