I have just been reading an article that I found a few years ago. The title was “The Perfect Recipe for Reducing Stress in Accountancy”. Reading it again, it still made interesting reading.
Anyone who knows me will be able to tell you that I do not do stress. It’s not that I do not work under pressure. You cannot be an accountant in practice without pressure. There are always deadlines, urgent jobs and the like. It goes with the territory. But stress to me is when you are under pressure, either from out or within, and you either have or are in danger of losing control of your own mind or thoughts. I do not do stress.
If you work under pressure, what can you do?
The pandemic changed life as we knew it and many things will never be quite the same again. Working from home has focused minds on mental health and what that means for each of us. I enjoy working from home, but not all the time. I work better when there is the stimulation of personal interaction either with staff or clients, or even HMRC. It all adds to the rich tapestry of life.
When I work from home, I have bird feeders hanging outside my window and in those moments when I lift my head I can watch Green Finches, Gold Finches, Sparrows, Robins and Pheasants just a few feet away from my desk. It just gives you the occasional lift. It’s nice but not all of the time.
We have experienced the changes just like everyone else. I have not seen any accountants going under although I can imagine there are a few struggling. We are all seeing increased costs, a shortage of suitable staff and a more rapid churn in the marketplace as clients succumb to the pressures or just give up, while there are a lot of new businesses starting up. But we have not had to endure the extreme problems of sectors like hospitality.
We recognised that we cannot now go back to the way it was before the pandemic. We have adopted new policies and working protocols and what was previously regarded as impossible is now accepted as the way forward. Flexible working, work life balance and a more reasoned approach to the working environment are now the norm, as it is with so many other businesses. This new way of work should also bring some kind of remedy to the issue of stress and anxiety.
An interesting observation that came across was that white collar industries tend to produce more cases of stress and anxieties, whilst labour-intensive roles report the fewest cases. It is therefore not linked directly with income levels which seems to have little to do with mental satisfaction. Those jobs which are physically demanding tend to have the most satisfied workers. I can understand and relate to that.
Many years ago, shortly after I became self-employed, I was working long hours and most days. Weekends? What’s that! Anyway, my father in law at the time who lived in Orkney gave me the chance to go on an old fashioned peat cutting, a gang of 6 men and enough food for an army. A long and heavy days’ work starting early in the morning and ending with a huge dinner back at the farm. Even after all these years I still remember the feeling of satisfaction at the end of a day when I was physically exhausted. When you work at a desk you can be mentally tired, but it is a completely different feeling. Being physically exhausted seems to be more satisfying than being tired after spending a day trying to get your excel spreadsheet to balance.
We all need ways to reset our brains, whether that be golf, football, cooking etc. I enjoy cooking, and occasionally it might actually turn out “OK” which is a bonus. I have never gotten into baking. I don’t think it would be good for my waistline. I like cakes too much.
Anyway, getting back to the article that I found again, what is the perfect recipe for reducing stress in accountancy or indeed any other sedentary occupation. Well, according to that author, it is a steamed chocolate pudding with chocolate sauce. You can view the recipe here and if you make it, save me a slice.
I have other ways of staying sane in the mad world of accountancy. In the next couple of months, I have concerts (Springsteen and Elton John) and the British Grand Prix at Silverstone. In between. I have my camera (I have a lot of bird pictures), I am learning to play piano (slowly) and of course, there is the occasional bottle of red wine over dinner at home with my favourite person in all the world.
So, the most important word in business may be “next” but there is another that must be up there as well… Chill!
Alan E Long
The Long Partnership