Take the stress out of your training contract

Jul 02, 2018
Fulfilling your training contract while going through your exams can lead to stress. Barden’s Neil Murphy ACA explains how you can build up your resilience to help you cope better.

We can all see that the scale and speed of business is increasing at an alarming rate. On one hand, the rapid pace of digitisation, hyper-connectivity and globalisation enables businesses to succeed, which, as professionals, we’re all in favour of, but at what personal cost? We have a 24/7 work-cycle, are always connected to the job, and an increased sense of accountability to be as responsive as possible. Which, in turn, causes workplace-related stress and a high risk of burnout.

These factors can be exaggerated even more when you work in professional services on a training contract, where you learn as you go. Add in busy season and a client that is ‘less than cooperative’ and you’ve got the perfect storm.

Rich Fernandez, in his recent Harvard Business Review article, ‘5 Ways to Boost Your Resilience at Work’, argues that building resilience is a key factor in managing stress and reducing burnout. It’s an interesting concept; resilience, defined as the capacity to recover quickly from difficulty, is undermined by stress. As your mind and body become stressed, even the most resilient amongst us will find it more difficult to recover from the impact of our hyper-connected working lives. Therefore, it’s a logical argument to say that by building resilience, we will cope better with stress. But how?

#1 Optimism and objectivity in practice 

We’ve all heard of practices such as mindfulness, and even if you’re not a fan, you will surely see the value in taking time out of 24/7 connectivity to gain perspective and restore your energy. Ensuring you set aside time during the day (while in the office included!) to completely disconnect from technology is a vital step in being able to step outside of your issues and look at them from a fresh and less involved perspective. This objectivity leads to optimism in problem resolution, which can build resilience and reduce stress.

#2 Stay balanced and manage your emotions

When you’re managing a heavy workload, it’s likely you’re switching between cognitive tasks repeatedly: emails to strategy meeting, board teleconference to difficult client. This rollercoaster of tasks can stress your cognitive functions, causing a feeling of imbalance and heightened emotional sensitivity.

Try to ‘chunk’ your workload. Break your day and week into two to three-hour sections where you manage similar tasks together. Make your day a series of sprints rather than one long marathon.

#3 Remember to create a sense of safety and collectiveness

My last point is simple in concept, but easily forgotten in a high-stress environment. When you’re stressed, it’s easy to forget the personal touches that make your teammates ‘safe’ and connected to your collective purpose (hitting that audit deadline, etc.). When any team member is visibly stressed, it creates tension and can breed additional stress, discord and dissent on the team. Keeping those communication channels open will not only create less stress around you, it will make you and your team more resilient and responsive to managing difficult situations.

Good luck and look after yourself and your future will look after itself!