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Mental well-being is needed for businesses to thrive

Jul 23, 2020

We all know how important the work-life balance is, especially in the accountancy profession. Noel O'Callaghan believes that in order for businesses to thrive, they must put the well-being of their employees first.

Working as a Chartered Accountant has been a hugely rewarding part of my life. As a Chartered Accountant, the world truly is your oyster – it provides a ‘passport’ to travel, make money, meet people and is a great platform to launch a full and busy life. My 18 years working in the world of finance has reaped all those benefits and more. However, it is also important to recognise that it is a hugely demanding career that sometimes can come at a cost.

While my career has been predominantly steeped in finance, I also work as a qualified psychotherapist on a voluntary basis. I believe if our mental health is managed well, it can not only allow us to realise our potential in the workplace, but we can also live happily outside of it.

With my accountant friends, I allude to the idea that the ‘premium on pay is to help offset the tax on health’. Though this is said tongue-in-cheek, I believe that accountancy can be a highly attritional career that must be managed so that you can extract as many of the benefits as possible without being hit with a whopper of the aforementioned ‘tax bill’.

It is an uncomfortable truth that many jobs in accountancy are stressful. This is evidenced by the number of workdays being lost to poor mental health continuing to rise in financial services. While this is a massive burden on employers and the economy, it pales in comparison to the pain and distress that the individuals are enduring. A recent study in the UK has found that over 60% of managers have had to put the interests of their organisation above staff wellbeing either sometimes, regularly or every day. This is troubling, given that the accessibility to staff at home during their off-hours is higher than ever. It makes a good work-life balance more difficult to achieve.

The relationship between mental health and business is complex. Companies and accounting practices must seek to establish wellbeing as a ‘pillar’ of their strategy going forward and invest in it accordingly. To entice the best and brightest during the next college recruitment ‘milkround’, there must be a targeted message around wellbeing. This is desperately needed to future-proof businesses, as evidence suggests that the next generation of employees are going to need it even more than before. 69% of UK job-seeking graduates reported having mental health issues at some point. Providing a foundation on which all employees can thrive must be high on CEO priority lists going forward.

The good news is that I believe we are reaching a turning point. Business leaders are beginning to address this growing problem. Organisations such as CA Support are evolving from previously presenting themselves as a benevolent fund to be a more rounded, practical support for people to help navigate challenges in their lives. For businesses to succeed going forward, they need to nurture the mental well-being of their teams.

The article is written by Noel O’Callaghan, FCA and qualified Psychotherapist (IACP pre-accredited).  If you would like to discuss how any of the topics mentioned above are impacting your mental health, please contact the CA support team at CASupport@charteredaccountants.ie.