28 Feb 2022

Stressed and burned-out accountants too busy to seek mental health support

Stressed accountants are more likely to follow employer advice for a lunchtime walk than access employer-funded mental health support.

8th February 2022 - A major new piece of research* by caba, the charity helping the ICAEW community thrive in their personal and professional lives with training, advice and support, has found that more than half (56%) of accountants are suffering with stress and burnout, compared with 41% of employees across a wide range of sectors, business sizes and job roles. 

On top of this, eight in 10 (79%) accountants believe that stress and poor mental health are a problem within the accountancy profession. The reasons highlighted for this were workload (87%), long hours (72%) and the complexity of the work, with no room for error (63%). 

The research, which sought to shed light on the mental health of the industry, also surveyed 500 HR professionals across multiple sectors on mental health within their workforce. 42% agreed they had staff who were suffering from mental health issues and 43% had seen more employees than usual requesting mental health support during the pandemic. However, over three-quarters (78%) believed their workplaces ultimately provide adequate support.

What caba found in the accounting community was that despite nearly half (49%) of those surveyed acknowledging that throughout the pandemic their employers have increased the amount of wellbeing support on offer, 86% said they hadn’t used an employer-provided counselling phone line, 63% hadn’t used apps or subscriptions for mental health tools and 46% hadn’t taken any mental health days. Whereas caba itself saw an increase of 18% in emotional wellbeing enquiries and a 25% increase in those who they supported with counselling. 

When asked why these employees weren’t accepting their employer-funded mental health support, 36% said that they don’t have time, 32% that they don’t think their condition is severe enough and 23% said that they don’t think it will help. But not only were these accountants not seeking help via their employer-funded route; 69% had not utilised out of work mental health support either.

In contrast, many accountants would instead be willing to accept some slightly more informal advice. 85% said that they have followed advice to take regular breaks, and to take a proper lunchbreak and go for a walk.

Dr Cristian Holmes, Chief Executive of caba, comments: 

“It’s very encouraging that many in our profession are attentive to improving their mental health and wellbeing, are open to exploring advice and are incorporating this into their working lives. Yet for many others, this has been a much more difficult time, and it’s troubling that the survey indicates that there hasn’t been adequate and timely support in place.  

“Whilst accountancy is a demanding profession, it’s important for all of us to understand when stress becomes un-manageable and how to seek more formal support. We would encourage all members of the community to use resources supplied by their employer, as well as those available from caba and other support charities.”

The research also addressed the reasons accountants would be put off seeking support in the workplace 

It has been found that stigma continues to be an issue. 30% of accountants would be concerned about their manager or HR department believing them to be unreliable if they sought help for their mental health. When comparing accountants with employees in wider sectors, they were more likely to be concerned about the impact on their career of admitting they were suffering with stress. 48% of accountants were worried about being treated differently (33% of employees), while 42% feared an impact on their career progression (up from 27% of employees).

The research sees the launch of a new brand and identity for caba, a significant piece of work that has been undertaken to increase the brand’s relevance and appeal to its diverse community. In addition, the charity is moving to a digital-first approach, to ensure training and support are highly accessible for all ICAEW members and their families. These significant steps in caba’s journey also include a brand-new website, with easy access to mental health resources. 

“At caba, we want to build greater support and understanding around mental health, wellbeing and resilience. As a charity, we have recently undergone a significant re-brand and are re-prioritising our services. We offer emotional support for those who need help with mental health issues, including stress, anxiety and depression, and aim to be in the best possible position to assist accountants in this ongoing period of change.”

Dr Cristian Holmes, Chief Executive of caba



For more information on caba, caba.org.uk/ 

To learn about the revitalised catalogue of mental health, wellbeing and support services that it offers to the accounting community, visit caba.org.uk/mental-health