By Mike Whitmire, CEO, FloQast
Despite the Bank of England expecting inflation to fall quickly in 2023, it can feel like we’re in a bit of a ‘permacrisis’. Just when your business has managed to weather the storm brought on by the pandemic, the Russia-Ukraine war begins and the cost-of-living crisis strikes.
It’s not easy keeping the lights on amid so much change and challenge. But it’s not just the bottom line that feels the pain of permacrisis – it’s your people. And, according to research, the accounting department is feeling the pinch particularly badly. We spoke to 500 UK finance directors and controllers, and the outlook was far from rosy.
Data from The State of Play in UK Accounting, revealed that a ‘work more’ approach is contributing to burnout and acting as a barrier to accuracy among accountants. One in three leaders list losing team members (34%) and maintaining morale (35%) as key concerns. 69% are concerned about burnout. And most worryingly of all, a full eight out of ten (81%) have lost staff due to that exact issue.
And, consider this. When asked a year ago, accountants said that if they had an extra hour in the day, they’d spend it doing things like playing with their pets, watching TV, and sorting out the house. ‘Carry on working’ didn’t even make the top five. But this year, a desire to spend free time working is almost top of the list, beaten only by spending time with family. What clearer indicator could there be that accountants are under tremendous pressure to do more with less in today’s working environment?
Wanted: silver linings
It all begs the question: does a career in accountancy have to be characterised by stress? In short, the answer is ‘no’. But first, let’s consider the specific causes of all this stress.
According to our respondents, a third (32%) of businesses are making simultaneous cutbacks this year, freezing headcount and salaries, and postponing any new investment in technology. Meaning teams are having to live and breathe the ‘do more with less’ mantra.
At the same time, there is a real desire in the accounting profession to improve the quality and value of their work, as accountants reported they’d like to spend more time on transformational activities (54%) and strategic tasks (52%). They’re seeking more fulfilling roles where they are relieved of the time-consuming, repetitive manual processes.
That’s the gauntlet they’re throwing down to business leaders – ‘If you want to see our job satisfaction and retention increase, these are our terms.’ So how do you go about making it happen?
Changing the game with the right resources
The solution: Give your people the right tools for the job. Improving accountancy processes through helpful technology can contribute to a more fulfilled and productive workforce and greater accuracy.
This isn’t just a slogan; professionals are seeing the difference in the day-to-day. Research respondents outlined specific ways in which technology improves their day-to-day, with the most significant benefit of tech being improved accuracy (43%), followed by reduced manual processes (39%), reduced workload (31%), improved collaboration (28%), and restored confidence in figures (26%).
These benefits align closely with their responses to another question – what would help make the month-end close process less stressful? The top responses were improved communication (42%), access to remote information (42%), and better software programs (41%).
On top of that, accountants also view digital technology as a key means of improving accounting operational excellence in general. In fact, nearly half (43%) believe technology would have the most impact on accounting operational excellence at their company – more than any other factor.
Attracting new talent; reversing the brain drain
Given that 87% of respondents reported greater stress during the month-end Close process, and given the overall worries about burnout, these responses would seem to speak for themselves.
By providing accountants with software that can help them automate repetitive tasks, collaborate more effectively, process data more accurately, and gain time back for more strategic work, companies can significantly shift the level of stress faced by accountants. They can help give them a fresh sense of purpose. And they can become hotspots for top accounting talent. All while adding value to their business – unlocking the strategic potential of the accounting team.
There’s no easy way round the challenges facing all businesses in 2023. But smart use of tech really can make the difference to pressured accountants – and when they benefit, so does the whole enterprise.