By Matt Weston, Director at Robert Half UK
Around the world, stress levels in the workplace are escalating. Robert Half’s global research of CFOs found that three in four anticipate that stress levels will increase to some degree in their department over the next three years. In UK, this figure rises slightly to 78%.
With such an important function underpinning the very essence of every business, it isn’t a surprise that the finance department is suffering from higher stress levels. On a global level, rising stress levels can be attributed to four fundamental changes – increasing workloads, growing business expectations, shorter deadlines and a lack of skilled staff. In finance, these pressures are even more acute. The role of finance functions is expanding to support operational decision-making, but at the same time it continues to manage day-to-day financial activities, such as forecasting, budgeting and accounting.
So how are firms working to tackle rising stress levels?
Top tips for feeling fine in finance
Globally, companies are already working to combat tension among employees by introducing initiatives to support staff through stressful times at work and in their personal lives. However, different countries are tackling this issue in a way that is best-suited to their environment and cultures. In the UK, 44% of companies are introducing health and wellbeing scheme to support employees and improve productivity.
While the way in which companies tackle rising stress levels varies, there are some universal steps that can support employee wellbeing and create a workforce of happy and fulfilled staff.
Rethinking working practices
Some organisations are redesigning the office space where employees spend most of their time. Creating agile work environments that include break-out zones, hot desking facilities and offering healthy food or drinks to provide a better experience of office life.
Others are offering flexible working options – be it flexible working hours or the opportunity to work in different locations – to provide employees with a better feeling of work-life balance. While there are certain roles where remote working and full flexibility cannot be offered, employees that can use advancements in technology to work away from the traditional office environment or embrace alternative working hours can benefit from a feeling of autonomy that often increases satisfaction, productivity and motivation.
Many businesses are looking at how they can address any skills shortages and help permanent staff by introducing temporary support. Highly-skilled, contract or temporary workers are a valuable resource that is available to fill gaps in existing workforces. By planning ahead for times when finance will experience a busier workload, for example year-end, then it’s possible to ensure there is appropriate resource in place to manage workloads so that employees don’t feel overworked.
For many employees, the opportunity to have an honest conversation about levels of stress can also help. There is a growing trend to create opportunities for staff to feedback to management on areas of the business that need improving or are working well. This approach allows employees to present their opinion and be listened to by senior staff members to address any issues.
Finally, making social activities regular and impactful also features high on the list when working to create an inclusive and attractive environment that minimises stress and encourages a team mentality. At a time when staff are struggling to manage growing workloads, such initiatives help foster a feeling of gratitude that makes employees feel like they are being rewarded for their hard work and contributes to higher levels of morale and camaraderie.
Ultimately, we must ask the question, why is employee wellbeing important?
We know that happiness is key to employee productivity, yet the overall figures for employee engagement on the topic of wellbeing and happiness are mediocre. There are some countries that do relatively well and continuously engage with employees in the finance function to assess wellbeing and happiness levels. Others don’t do so well. In the UK, 34% of companies are engaged in an ongoing dialogue with employees.
So why is employee wellbeing in the finance department sometimes ignored or neglected? Thirty-eight per cent believe that it is due to it not being a priority for management within the organisation. And the same again (38%) believe that it is due to a lack of formal processes and channels through which to discuss and escalate such issues. A further 23% claim that it is handled, or more aptly, delegated to HR teams that are unsure of next steps.
The importance of employee happiness in finance can’t be ignored and employers can’t afford to avoid addressing employee wellbeing. There is a shifting consensus within society that the mental wellbeing of employees is crucial to workplace satisfaction and productivity. Finance needs to proactively own their employees’ happiness if the function is to remain productive and efficient. This means considering the impact that stress can have on employee happiness and taking tangible steps to support the wellbeing of the workforce.
Ultimately, de-stressed employees are happy employees that go on to have more fulfilling careers while being productive, dedicated, creative and loyal to the organisations that they serve. Balanced and well-supported workers that are engaged by their employers, are far more likely to benefit the business in the long-term. Which would you prefer to have on board?