Time to talk: mental health in the accountancy profession
We managed to make it through January (hurrah!). Yet warm summer days are still a way away, and at this time of year a lot of people can struggle with […]
We managed to make it through January (hurrah!). Yet warm summer days are still a way away, and at this time of year a lot of people can struggle with their mental health. According to CABA, work-related mental health problems are costing businesses in England up to £26bn a year, illustrating how an unhealthy workplace can impact both productivity and morale. So, we think it’s time we started talking about it.
Throughout the year we’ll be sharing news and advice on how to manage your mental health as an accountant, but today we’ll start with a quick look at what some firms are already doing to promote positive mental health across their business. Perhaps your firm can follow suit by borrowing one or two of these ideas?
Accounting firms take action
From EY Justine Campbell, managing partner for talent in the UK and Ireland, said: “We established Thinking Differently, our initiative to challenge the taboo surrounding mental health. We encourage our people to share stories, including senior leaders, talking openly about their own experiences of depression, anxiety, and alcoholism. In addition to this, over 700 EY employees have received training as Mental Health First Aiders, to better equip the workforce in identifying and helping people who are mentally and physically struggling.
“Our Mental Health Network, led by employees, acts as a key source of support by running a buddy scheme which pairs people who have had similar experiences, for example returning to work following a period of ill health. We also launched our Mindfulness Network, helping and encouraging people to learn and practice mindfulness at work.”
Finally, the firm has launched webinars which focus on wellbeing to help tackle the stigma in the industry. It aims to help improve people’s knowledge and understanding of mental health, by discussing topics such as sleep, managing anxiety and alcohol drugs and addiction.
Whilst EY has successfully started the conversation around mental health, it is not the only big firm to have done so. Other accountancy firms, including KPMG and Grant Thornton, for example, have also introduced measures to help improve awareness and support in their workplace.
At BDO, partners and staff from the firm have recently taken part in a programme entitled “Chain Challenge,” which includes physical and non-physical events aimed at raising awareness in mental health. The programme also promotes practice in relation to managing wellbeing.
During the event, colleagues gathered to participate in wellbeing activities such as cycle rides, organised walks, or office yoga. Chris Grove, part of the firm’s Leadership Team and head of BDO’s culture board, was one of the driving forces behind the Chain Challenge.
He said: “Anyone who knows me, knows that cycling and culture are two of my great passions, so when a member of my team suggested a firm-wide cycling challenge, I knew we could easily link the two. Knowing we have cycled over 10,000 miles in the space of just 10 days is a fantastic achievement – but knowing we have opened more conversations about mental and physical health is even better.
“For three years, we’ve been using MIND’s 5 Ways of Wellbeing to help our people pay more attention to their own wellbeing, and I am incredibly proud of the progress we have made.”
We know many of you work in smaller firms, but if you like the sound of any of the ideas in this piece, why not take the lead and organise something similar for yours?
Support for Accountants
In 2018, CABA enabled 2,907 people to receive support and advice whilst 633 individuals worked with a counsellor. Above all, 138,127 professionals gained access to online self-help guides.
Kelly Feehan, Service Director at CABA, said: “At CABA we are committed to cultivating an environment in which people feel safe to talk about their mental health and making sure our community of ICAEW members, ACA students, and their families always know where to turn. Through our extensive network of experts, we offer emotional support for those who need help with mental health issues, including stress, anxiety and depression.
“This service is confidential, available 24/7, and completely free to use. We also offer free online treatment for anxiety and depression through our SilverCloud programme as well as life coaching.”
Watch this space for more ways to look after your own mental health in a way that works for you over the coming months.