Have you taken the time to check in with your mental health recently?
As an accountant, you’re no stranger to high-pressure situations. Accountants help clients with some of the most important decisions of their lives, and that responsibility comes with its share of stress and anxiety. That’s why it’s essential for accountants to pay attention to their mental health, particularly during tax season.
We here at Gusto are dedicated to helping you succeed and overcome all kinds of challenges in your accounting career, including mental health struggles. That’s why Gusto’s Editor-at-Large, Caleb Newquist, and the head of Gusto’s accountant community, Will Lopez, hosted this very special episode of our On the Margins: LIVE series.
While this episode was recorded in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, the wisdom and kindness shared remain relevant because the accounting profession will always have stressful seasons. You can watch the entire video on YouTube, and while there, don’t forget to subscribe to our YouTube channel. You’ll get a steady stream of informative content about the accounting industry.
Why we all need a vacation
During this episode of On the Margins: LIVE, Will mentioned an article he read in the New York Times. The article is titled, “The Case for a National One-Week Vacation,” and you can check it out here. In the article, the author talks about the importance of taking a vacation to take care of your health. The article was written in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, but its point remains relevant:
“[The article is] basically making the case that it’s been pretty rough for about a year and a half, and instead of shutting down to avoid a pandemic, I think what it was [suggesting] was: Let’s just kind of take a one-week vacation to really just reset. I think everybody just needs to rest.”– Will Lopez
Can you relate to that? Do you feel like you could use a reset? The unfortunate truth is that, as an accountant, you are highly likely to experience burnout and exhaustion, and it’s important during those times to take a step back and give yourself some time off. Taking a short one-week break to reset your mind can make an incredible difference when it comes to your mental health.
But here’s the key: When you take your vacation, it’s essential to truly take it. Step back from your everyday routines, turn off the devices, and truly unplug:
“What was fun and really crucial about this … was, for this one week, there would be no internet, no Instagram lives, no Netflix and chill, no gaming [or] streaming on Twitch. It is all about self-care, … and part of the deal is that you have to unplug.”– Will Lopez
Will and Caleb gave their presentation during Mental Health Awareness Month, but the truth is, you don’t need a special month to take the time for self-care. If you’re feeling run down or combating burnout, it may be time to take a one-week vacation, unplug, and take care of your mental health. You can start planning right now—go ahead and mark the dates of your next vacation on your calendar. You don’t have to do anything extravagant—this is all about giving yourself a break from work to rest and recharge.
Love letters to accountants
Here at Gusto, we don’t just like to serve accountants, we like to celebrate them too. That’s why we put together the incredible video presentation Will and Caleb showed on their episode.
For this incredibly special video, we had our small business customers send in some beautiful love letters—words of kindness, gratitude, and praise—to their accountants. Then, we filmed two other Gusto team members—Henry Wilder and Ellen Ennes—reading out some of these encouraging love letters. Here are just a few of our favorites:
“My accountant is the best. He’s always there to help even when he’s busy with other things. Also, he’s great at playing the saxophone.”
“Michele responded to emails at all hours. I honestly think she didn’t sleep for weeks working as hard as she could to help everyone access these crucial funds.”
“When the first round of PPP started, my business partner and I were terrified that we would miss the opportunity. I knew I needed Jon’s advice and insight. Thanks to him, we got the application submitted, and I was able to sleep that night.”
“Brenda manages to turn reviewing our monthly books into something I look forward to. Even when her kitchen was being renovated during COVID-19 and she had to eat takeout for a full month, Brenda still showed up with a big smile to go over our financials.”
“Laurie is always ready to help and does so with a direct approach, which we love.”
As you can see, small business clients truly appreciate their accountants for all the hard work they do. As an accountant, you are in a unique position to help your clients make wise financial decisions. As challenging as the busy season for accountants can be, the work you do is necessary, and we here at Gusto appreciate you for doing it. So go on, pat yourself on the back—you deserve it!
How to cope with the busy season
Every accountant knows it—tax season is exhausting. Filling out complicated tax returns over and over is not easy. In recent years, tax deadlines have been delayed, and while this has helped many people, it does extend the busy season for accountants. Additionally, many accountants work longer hours or weekend hours during the tax season to ensure they provide their clients with the highest quality work. Unfortunately, however, this can create a dangerous snowball effect.
Mounting pressures, lengthening tax seasons, and longer working hours can very quickly lead to burnout. It’s important to be on the lookout for signs of emotional distress. If you notice yourself or one of your team members growing more isolated or anxious, it may be time to take a break. Remember, too, that the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24/7 to provide help to those experiencing extreme emotional distress. You can call them at 1-800-273-8555.
It’s also important to remember that your identity is not your work. You are so much more than just your job as an accountant. Caleb made a great point about this:
“I think a lot of people fall into the trap of … [identifying] their self-worth … in how they perform at work and how they see themselves in … a work context and a professional context, and I think it’s important to remind folks that that’s not everything. There are other ways to see yourself. There are other ways to … measure yourself. … There’s other aspects of your lives that are just as important and that people need to remember that makes them a special person, that makes them a person that is to be treasured and valued and appreciated in all kinds of different ways”– Caleb Newquist
Always remember—you are more than your career. Your success at work is important, of course, but it’s not the only thing that matters in life. Your relationships, how you take care of yourself, and the impact you have on others around you are all essential parts of who you are. So, when the busy season comes around and you feel the pressure to work too hard, keep in mind that work isn’t everything.
Why people advising is a remedy for burnout
As an accountant, you do essential work helping your clients prepare their taxes and make sound financial decisions. That’s important work, but you have the opportunity to do so much more. As a people advisor, you can help your clients create even better places to work. Through helping your clients navigate the worlds of recruiting and hiring, human resources, payroll, and more, you have the opportunity to do incredible relationship building and help your clients make their accounting firms outstanding places to work.
That work is essential for their clients; through people advising, your clients can optimize their workplaces. However, people advising has an added benefit for you, too. You can actually combat burnout through people advising and the relationship building that comes with it.
“I think that’s why advisory really resonated with me. … I felt like … in my daily life at work from nine to five or nine to nine or whatever the case may be, I felt very much … like … just somebody that was there to crunch some things and just kind of rinse and repeat, rinse and repeat, rinse and repeat. … What [advisory] allowed me, our firm, and our team to do was actually have more conversations with clients—that was very relationship-oriented. It was about learning them, learning their business, learning their passions. What are you excited about? Where do you want to go? How do you want to take care of your family? And we felt like an integral role in all that decision-making.”– Will Lopez
Do you ever feel the way Will did? Can you relate to feeling like a simple number-cruncher? When you become a people advisor, you give yourself the ability to be genuinely invested in your clients. You get to learn what makes them tick and then offer your expertise to help them succeed.
By building these kinds of relationships with your clients, you can reinvigorate your enthusiasm for your work. You can invest in your clients and see them succeed in an incredibly fulfilling way. If you feel burnt out and stressed by your accounting work, becoming a people advisor could be the solution for you.
Learn more about how to stay mentally healthy in the accounting profession
As an accountant, your work can definitely be stressful, especially during the busy season. That’s why it’s essential to take care of your mental health. Taking even a one-week vacation every year to unplug from technology, rest, and recharge can make a world of difference. You can also mitigate the effects of burnout and increase your satisfaction at work by becoming a people advisor. When you incorporate people advising into your accounting profession, you can build successful relationships and experience greater fulfillment at work for yourself and your clients.
To watch the full episode of On the Margins: Live, you can visit our YouTube page. Additionally, look out for Part Two of this article series, “Why All Accountants Need ICF Coaching at Some Point.”
Looking for more ways to enhance your accounting firm? Consider partnering with Gusto! When you become a Gusto partner, you get exclusive access to tools and resources to support your clients into the future. Streamline payroll and benefits, and start advising your clients in valuable new ways. Join Gusto’s Partner Program today.