A recent Fide report outlines the impacts of the pandemic on finance professionals’ mental health.

CFOs, MDs, CEOs, FDs and other senior finance leaders have described the mental anguish they have felt as they tried to navigate the pandemic, in a report by wellbeing-focused recruitment company Fide.

In over 100 conversations and 235 responses from people within the profession, the report highlights the various issues that senior leaders have dealt with over the past few months.

“There is very little doubt the impact Covid-19 has had on all our lives,” said Javed Bobat, founder of Fide. “The worst pandemic in over 100 years and the subsequent lockdown measures have put a lot of strain and stresses on our lives.”

Finance teams are under increasing pressure to deliver more value over the past decade, said Bobat. “It may come as little surprise that this rise in expectations and importance has also correlated with a steep, year-on-year rise in stress, anxiety, burnout and other wellbeing challenges. Stress and Depression began to top the list of enquiries made to CABA (Chartered Accountants Benevolent Association) as early as 2014.”

In 2020, the impact of COVID-19 has made this pressure worse. Finance teams have been working intensely to keep businesses afloat, protect jobs and adapt the way in which they work.

It goes without saying that this year has been difficult

Many respondents said something along the lines of: “Professionally and personally, this period has been the most difficult I have experienced in my career.”

Given the pressure that finance teams are under at the moment, it’s not surprising that senior finance leaders are feeling the strain. They’re also feeling a little abandoned by their business, and seen as “Employee first. Human second”.

“For many of you, working these last few months has felt very much like a take-take approach from your employer,” said Bobat. “Everything (and more) is expected of you. Many of you feel that your emotional and wellbeing needs have not been met.”

We’re all doing more with less

This trend is likely to continue as the economy remains challenging and businesses face more hardships to come in 2021. “The more you moved out of crisis response mode, the more fatigue has begun to kick in, and the effects of doing more with less are increasingly visible,” said Bobat. “The fatigue isn’t just affecting productivity and performance, self-care has taken a hit, and the negative impact on your wellbeing is very real.”

If you want to read more articles on mental fitness, particularly in business, we recommend these articles.

Finance teams aren’t taking time off

The workload this year has been intense; 95% of finance leaders that Bobat polled didn’t take more than five days of up to the first week of June. As one finance professional said: “May half term was the first days off I’d managed to take in 2020.”

Some are missing office life

“In a strange way, [I] miss a bit of a commute,” said one CFO. “I don’t have time between leaving my desk and getting home to organise my thoughts and clear my mind.”

The report found that this was the case for many finance leaders. The commute had some wellbeing benefits and helped some to separate work and home life. “Losing the commute, with no alternative but to work in your own home, has not all been a bed of roses,” said Bobat.

CFOs are worried about their teams – and themselves

“I’m worried about the mental health and wellbeing of my team,” said one senior professional. This was echoed by many others. A lot of them have put a considerable emphasis on their team’s wellbeing. 

“I have had to have conversations with fellow directors about my self-confidence plummeting while working from home,” said one director. “It is so easy to misinterpret an exclamation mark or an emoji. The silence allows the paranoia to ruminate. You start to interpret sentences on messages or facial expressions on a video call in a totally different way, and before you know it, you’re a nervous wreck!”

“You can see who’s logged in on an evening, and there’s usually many of us,” added another.

There are some positives, however

We’ve all had to adapt quickly in order to work in the pandemic, and finance teams have tapped into the depths of their resilience in order to get through the pandemic. Said one professional: “I’m proud of my team’s achievements and how we have all adjusted.”

And while some have felt unsupported by their companies, others feel very supported by their managers and loved ones. “There have been some encouraging examples of managers in accounting firms, line managers in companies across companies who have gone out of their way to make sure their team members have felt supported,” said Bobat. “Regular phone catch-ups, through to check-in from others in the firm specifically from a wellbeing point of view. This has been great to hear.”

If you are concerned about mental health, this link provides details on services and organisations in the UK that offer help and support directly.

You’re not alone; talk to someone you trust. Sharing a problem is often the first step to recovery.