By Kathy Spearing | July 31, 2020


Stress can come in many forms. Good or bad, no one group, profession or title is immune. From an accounting workplace perspective, we can experience a certain level of stress when our teams are preparing new accounting standards, readying for audits or performing month-end close. Those are pretty par for the course when it comes to stress.

However, if you throw in the current global crisis, a large remote workforce (even if some are making their way back to the office) and team members on high-alert due to the pandemic, the level of stress for leaders, if not managed properly, can become problematic.

Even under normal circumstances, it’s good to practice some exercises to prevent burnout and stress. After all, strong leaders are known for their poise, level-headedness and excellent problem-solving, right? However, if you consider what many of us are dealing with regarding the current crisis, stress might not be a strong enough word.

The last thing we want anyone to experience is so much stress that it becomes detrimental to their performance, management, health and happiness.

So what can accounting and finance managers—or anyone in the workforce—do when they reach high levels of stress?

For starters, you should take a proactive approach to ensure you remain healthy and stress-free no matter the circumstance. Although it’s often easier said than done, I thought I would still offer up the 10 Ways for Leaders to Relieve Stress below.

  1. Keep meetings short.
    No one wants their time wasted, and neither do you. If you’ve given someone a tight deadline, the last thing you want them to do is attend a lengthy meeting that pulls them away from their work. First, be clear about who should attend your meeting. With meetings now going virtual, be sure to have a clear agenda so that you don’t go on too many tangents. Next, be efficient and stay on task as you move through the agenda items. It’s important that you not go over the allotted time set for the meeting. Being organized and efficient can help alleviate the stress associated with leading your meeting and others attending it.
  1. Add staff when necessary.
    Although many businesses have furloughed individuals in the short-term, you can always consider enlisting consultants or contract workers to pick up some slack for essential projects. During extra busy times like tax season or audits, it can be beneficial for both the existing team members and the leaders to grow their workforce. More staff will allow everyone some breathing room to focus on priority projects while others can tackle the routine tasks.
  1. Communication often.
    The last thing you want you or your team members to stress about is a lack of information that can impede their production—this will only add stress to you as the leader if work is not getting done. Therefore, be sure to be transparent and communicate any changes or pertinent information that can make their jobs easier. This will make your job easier, as well. Alternatively, you should encourage your team to speak up if they’re having any issues, feeling overwhelmed or on the verge of burnout. Open communication will benefit everyone.
  1. Automate repetitive tasks.
    If your payroll team is still manually sending emails or pulling the same data over and over without utilizing technology to automate those processes, chances are your team members are likely stressed out, and so are you. Be sure to introduce new technologies to your accounting and finance teams when resources allow and offer any training necessary. Leveraging new tools to automate smaller tasks – so your teams can focus on bigger ones – will likely make everyone a little happier, and it’ll probably improve performance overall.
  1. Encourage healthy habits.
    It’s no secret that a healthy diet and exercise can reduce stress – as can laughter and overall happiness. Keep a pulse on your teams to see what they might need, especially as we near six months of the pandemic. Do you need to check in one-on-one with each person and see how they’re doing? Maybe you want to send someone a healthy gift basket if they’re struggling. Perhaps you could suggest a friendly exercise competition. Whatever your business and team’s culture may be, do what you can to encourage healthy habits. This will surely alleviate any stress that might be building.
  1. Disconnect.
    If you make yourself always available 24/7, even as a leader, you’ll find (if you haven’t already) that work can bleed into your personal life, and you’ll never have any real downtime. Many leaders are learning to balance being at home with children who are e-learning and spouses working from home. It’s imperative that you block out time to decompress. Try scheduling certain times to check emails or respond to voicemails when it doesn’t interfere with personal time. It’s all about balance, and it’s essential to find what works best for you and your new schedule.
  1. Listen to your body.
    Stress and anxiety can often bring on aches and pains that might have gone unnoticed before. If you get a headache at the same time every day and feel a constant sense of nausea, it may be due to burnout or stress from work. Be sure to listen to your body and understand when it’s time to give it a rest.
  1. Schedule “me time.”
    Although it’s hard to spend time away from work duties, it’s essential to maintaining your overall motivation in the workplace. So whether you make time to read a book, browse through Netflix or even go for a run, any time to yourself will allow you to relax and clear your mind!
  1. Get organized.
    As more people are working remotely, it’s essential to regularly clean your home office or whatever space you’ve designated for work. Organizing and decluttering can relieve burnout and can give you a sense of clarity and focus. Simple tasks such as organizing your file folders, deleting old emails or even clearing off a littered desk can create a small change with a significant impact. And if you have multiple work stations, such as at home and at the office, it’s even more important that you remain organized and tidy in both environments.
  1. Enjoy your personal life.
    No matter how tempting it may be to withdraw from others, especially during the difficult times we are all experiencing right now, it’s essential to spend time with friends and family who bring you comfort and joy. Whether through virtual calls, backyard social distancing parties or social media, make sure to interact with those who mean the most to you. Even as a leader, it’s OK to cherish the moments with loved ones and enjoy your life outside of work!

Did we miss anything? Let us know how you deal with stress as a leader or a team member in the comments below! 


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