How mentally healthy is your firm?
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Professional Insights

How mentally healthy is your firm?

10 months ago · 4 min read

After many stressful months and sleepless nights, rising star John nervously reached out to his manager Anna for a meeting. He had never spoken about the angst around his workload due to fears of what may result from revealing his true feelings. Anna is a well-respected emerging leader in the firm and someone he has grown to trust. They met early morning at a neighborhood coffeeshop. While it felt awkward at the start, he was relieved at how interested and supportive Anna was. “John, thank you for confiding in me with your struggles. The past year and a half have been extremely tough and returning to the office two days a week has created its own challenges. I want to help you get the assistance you need to feel good again and there are many resources available. Before we get to that, let me share something with you. I too am struggling with anxiety and depression. I have not revealed this to anyone but since you have opened the conversation, I want you to know. Much to my surprise, it is comforting to talk about this with someone who understands the situation. What do you think about us checking in on each other, say once a week over a ‘walk and talk’ or coffee?” John sighed and gladly agreed. Maybe there is hope.

By the numbers

Struggles such as John’s and Anna’s have become the new normal as growing numbers grapple with mental health issues. Mind Share Partners’ 2021 Mental Health at Work Report reveals telling insight:

  • 76% of full-time US workers reported experiencing at least one symptom of a mental health condition in the past year. Most common symptoms:

    • Burnout (56%)

    • Depression (46%)

    • Anxiety (40%)

  • 77% of full-time US workers said their productivity at work was impacted by their mental health in the past year. Most common ways productivity was impacted:

    • Difficulty concentrating (38%)

    • Avoiding social activities (32%)

    • Difficulty thinking, reasoning, or deciding (24%)

  • 84% reported at least one workplace factor that negatively impacted their mental health in the past year—the most common being emotionally draining work (37%), challenges with work-life balance (32%) and lack of recognition (25%).

Things are improving but there is still much work to do
There has been positive movement on the mental health front over the past two years, yet it is only the start of what is needed, according to the 2021 Mental Health at Work Report.

  • 65% of respondents reported having talked about their mental health to someone at work in the past year - up from 40% in 2019

  • Workers’ comfort levels also grew in talking about mental health at work to:

    • Their colleagues (41%) up from 28% in 2019

    • Their manager (40%) up from 29% in 2019

    • HR (37%) up from 25% in 2019

  • Significant growth in the use of accommodations by employees— specifically ones that supported the day-to-day experience of work, including:

    • Extended or more frequent breaks from work - 550% increase

    • Adjustments to how they communicate with others and how often - 333% increase

    • Time in the work schedule for therapy appointments - 300% increase

Five steps to strengthen your firm’s mental health

More than simply encouraging individuals to find their way using the right resources, the new hybrid workplace calls for a healthy, open culture where employees feel valued, appreciated and supported.

  1. Start with culture and healthy ways to work
    If regular dialogues about mental health and wellbeing are not part of your firm’s narrative, now is a good time to begin. Weave them into conversations about returning to work and hybrid work arrangements. Address challenges such as work-life balance and burnout. Brainstorm healthy, sustainable ways to work that can replace outdated, pressure-packed processes and mindsets. Offer extra support around peak times and the holidays when struggles often escalate. Check out this recent PCPS webcast for more practical tips and strategies that you can put to work in your practice.

  2. From stigma to support
    Fear of what colleagues, managers and leaders will think prevents many from discussing their mental health challenges and seeking needed treatment. Work to remove this stigma in your firm. A good place to start is with firm leaders voicing their vulnerabilities (my child suffers with depression, younger brother lost his battle with drug addiction, both parents are in a care facility.) Break down barriers by talking about the importance of asking for help as a positive action rather than one of weakness. Encourage team members to accept and support each other when they need help.

  3. Train employees, managers and firm leaders to speak about mental health
    Like John and Anna, most of us do not know how to talk about mental health with our colleagues, not to mention what actions to take. Provide training so everyone is prepared. This can include how to listen without judgement and ways to support others in getting the help they need. Once you and your team are equipped with the fundamentals, encourage everyone to check in on each other regularly. “Are you okay?” and “What can I do to help?” can go a long with way with someone who is struggling. If you are looking for mental health training, checkout the options from Mind Share Partners and National Council for Mental Wellbeing.

  4. Identify what to do when a team member needs help
    Speak regularly about the benefits that your firm provides (Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs), online and in-person counseling, Mental Health Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) and meditation and sleep apps such as Calm and Headspace). Create a section on your firm’s portal with the latest scoop. Encourage everyone to use these services as needed without hesitation, shame or embarrassment because we can all use assistance from time to time. Make it clear where to go when someone needs help. Identify who to contact and how to reach them. Provide an e-card with the contact info so team members can add it to their phone and mobile devices along with a printed card for easy access.

  5. Bring mental health into your firm’s recruiting
    Talk about how your firm is approaching mental health in your recruiting initiatives. Address the needs of the 50% of employees that are leaving their jobs for their mental health and the 91% of employees that believe, when job-seeking, a prospective company’s culture should support mental health. Highlight the benefits and support that your firm provides. Share stories in your recruiting activities, both in-person and online of how your firm is creating a mentally healthy environment.

Also be sure to check out the PCPS mental health resources for a full list of tools and reading to address this important subject.

Here’s to taking positive steps now that will create a healthy, open workplace where employees feel valued, appreciated and supported.

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