Navigating Public Accounting: Strategies to Combat Burnout

Navigating Public Accounting: Strategies to Combat Burnout

Embarking on a career in public accounting marks a significant achievement, but sustaining that career amid the demanding and stressful environment presents an ongoing challenge. Public accounting, with its extended busy seasons and relentless workloads under the scrutiny of managers, senior managers, and partners, can at times feel overwhelming. The perpetual cycle of deadlines and tasks may lead to burnout, jeopardizing not only your professional well-being but also your personal life. In this exploration, we'll delve into practical tips to overcome burnout and strike a balance between your public accounting workload and personal life.

Recognizing the Perils of Burnout

The grind of public accounting often prompts individuals to set survival milestones – getting through interim testing, enduring busy season, or planning for the next audit. The persistent heavy workload can lead to a tunnel vision where life outside work becomes secondary. Realizing the toll this pace was taking on her life, one professional decided that continuing at this rate would inevitably lead to burnout.

Understanding that such year-round intensity was unsustainable, she adopted techniques to manage stress and burnout effectively. The following four key tips emerged as instrumental in her journey to navigate the challenges of public accounting without succumbing to burnout.

Tips to Overcome Burnout

  • Take Some "Me Time"

  • Being an overachiever often comes with fears of appearing less committed by taking paid time off (PTO) or attending personal appointments during work hours. However, the realization dawned that neglecting self-care was counterproductive.

    In hindsight, it became evident that utilizing allotted PTO is essential. If a team disapproves of PTO usage, it might be indicative of an unsupportive environment, warranting consideration for a team change. Acknowledging and addressing personal needs are crucial steps towards maintaining a sustainable and fulfilling career in public accounting.

  • During Time Off, Disconnect Completely

  • When taking time off, genuine disconnection from work is paramount. The value of a vacation lies not just in physical absence but also in mental detachment from work responsibilities. Establishing clear boundaries with the team before PTO and delegating tasks to colleagues ensure a smoother workflow.

    Including another team member's contact information in your out-of-office reply acts as a failsafe in case of any urgent matters. For a more comprehensive break, leaving the laptop at home aids in fostering a complete disconnect and contributes to genuine relaxation.

  • Take Control of Your Career

  • As burnout loomed during a senior audit role, a decision was made to reassess career trajectory. Recognizing the need for a change, the individual took control by transitioning into a different practice within the firm – the M&A group. This shift provided exposure to new skills, diverse projects, and a fresh perspective, reigniting lost motivation.

    It is crucial to realize that feeling undervalued or burned out does not equate to being stuck. Initiating discussions with a career counselor about potential changes, be it client, industry, office location, or practice, empowers individuals to take control of their professional lives and find renewed satisfaction.

  • Learn to Say "No"

  • Mastering the art of saying "no" proves to be challenging yet indispensable. Developing the skill of setting boundaries is integral for managing workloads effectively. The transition from being a people pleaser, always saying yes to additional tasks, to strategically declining when necessary is a pivotal evolution.

    A mentor's advice, emphasizing the value of putting 100% effort into one client rather than diluted effort across multiple clients, reshaped the approach towards workload management. Communicating workload constraints transparently to managers ensures that commitments align with realistic capacities, ultimately preventing burnout.

  • Crafting a Fulfilling Career Path

  • Starting a career in public accounting need not be synonymous with an inevitable descent into burnout. By embracing these tips early on, professionals can proactively navigate potential pitfalls, creating a foundation for a fulfilling and enduring career. Challenges will undoubtedly arise, especially in the initial stages of balancing personal and professional life. However, these experiences contribute to an invaluable learning curve, equipping individuals with skills that resonate throughout their professional journey.

    This piece is part of Chapter 14 in "The Life of an Accountant Series" by Kristin Lofgren of @Lets_Get_Fiscal. Engaging in a dialogue around these experiences, sharing advice, or posing questions is encouraged through direct messages on Instagram. As professionals continue to shape their public accounting careers, these insights serve as a guide for maintaining resilience and achieving sustainable success.

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