The majority of people name their job as their primary source of stress. Should you be concerned about anyone’s workplace stress but your own? Yes. Research shows that stressed employees are suboptimal performers. It’s quite likely that workplace stress negatively affects your company’s profitability. If so, what can you do about it?
Workplace Stress Is Expensive
The Mayo Clinic defines stress as “a normal psychological and physical reaction to the demands of life.” They explain that although occasional or low levels of stress can motivate individuals to achieve, chronic stress can lead to health problems. Whether your company is large or small, you have employees who can cope with what comes their way and employees who cannot. Aside from the cost in dollars to your company, employees who aren’t able to effectively do their jobs create problems for others. You will notice the effect rippling through your company.
Common symptoms of job stress include:
As everyone has a bad day now and then, the key is to notice continuing decline in job performance.
You have observed a significant deterioration in your bookkeeper’s job performance. Reports are late. Customers have complained that their payments aren’t correctly credited to their account. Your tax accountant is clamoring for financial data, and the bank wants a set of current financial statements. What’s going on? The job can’t be that hard.
Stress Is Inherent in Your Bookkeeper’s Job
Reality check. Your business needs good financial records to stay solvent. If you own or manage a small company, your bookkeeper might be your sole financial resource. If your company is large, you might have an accounting department. In a very large company, you might have a CFO, tax attorney, and a raft of financial consultants. Regardless of the size of the business, everything depends on a bookkeeper accurately recording the financial data in a timely manner. Any analyses done by someone above the level of bookkeeper are dependent on the accuracy of the data recorded by the bookkeeper.
Bookkeepers tend to be perfectionists who are aware of how essential their job is to the financial health of your company. They collect data from every department in the company, organize, and record it. They know every number is vital. Not only does the number itself have to be accurate, it also has to be classified correctly. Your budgeting and planning efforts are in vain if the underlying data isn’t accurately organized and recorded. Without your bookkeeper, you’re in the dark about the profitability of your daily operations.
Everyone Expects Something from Your Bookkeeper
The taxes you eventually owe are based on transactions first recorded by your bookkeeper. Banks and investors want to know your cash flow. Your bookkeeper provides that information. Accounts receivables not coming in as fast as they should? Your bookkeeper can track which customers are lagging and help you implement remedial measures. Your bookkeeper knows which records need to be archived and which ones can be destroyed and when.
Your bookkeeper is governed by deadlines. Your vendors have to be paid by a specific time to avoid interest charges, but you don’t want them paid early and deplete the cash needed for daily operations. Depending on your business, your bookkeeper may have to file timely reports with regulatory agencies. The IRS is always hovering, wanting quarterly payroll reports, estimated income taxes, and other reports in the correct amounts submitted when due.
Your business is subject to audits from a variety of entities, especially the IRS. Who gathers all the records and financial data needed to satisfy auditors? Who has to explain discrepancies, if any? Who has to drop everything to find a document that an auditor needs immediately? Who works late and on weekends to get the books caught up? Your bookkeeper.
Have you expressed appreciation lately to your bookkeeper? Or do you, and possibly the rest of your employees, regard him or her as “just the bookkeeper?” Because bookkeepers aren’t involved in making your company’s product or providing its service, they are often dismissed as an overhead expense. Other employees “put up with” them and their requests for data because they have to.
Your bookkeeper can usually keep up with all the responsibilities of the job while managing their stress levels. Occasionally they become overwhelmed, and their work may suffer. That’s when it’s time to start looking at workplace stressors to see which can be alleviated or call us for assistance.
Relieving Bookkeeper Stress
Occupational & Environmental Medicine has published an article regarding “The Causes and Management of Stress At Work.” Their article includes several charts, one of which summarizes workplace stressors and how individuals are affected. Lack of respect isn’t explicitly listed, but “poor relationships” is. Your bookkeeper is a valuable member of your team, and it’s essential that as an owner/manager that you foster an environment of respect.
Research presented by the World Health Organization (WHO) shows that workplace stress is reduced when employees:
WHO further asserts that respect and appreciation are basic human needs.
New software and other tools are always being developed to automate tasks. Allow your bookkeeper an opportunity to evaluate and choose what will best meet the company needs. If something new is selected, follow through with providing any needed training. These sites list schools throughout Oregon and Washington that offer courses that can be completed in a few months to two years for bookkeepers who want to improve their skills or who want to advance to positions as accountants.
Lines of communication and the chain of command need to be clear. No one needs conflicting instructions from more than one person that outranks them in the hierarchy. Make sure that other employees respect your bookkeeper’s deadlines. Your bookkeeper knows what has to be done and when it's due. Except in an emergency, avoid tying them down to doing a specific task by a specific time. If everything is completed accurately and on time, let the bookkeeper schedule their workflow.
The days of green eyeshades and desk lamps are over. Why relegate your bookkeeper to a cubby hole with paperwork piled all over the place? Provide a spacious well-lit office in which to work. Let them choose the color and decor of the walls. A personalized work area is comfortable, which reduces stress.
Stress Management Resources
Following is a sampling of resources for stress reduction that can be helpful for managers and bookkeepers:
Additional online resources can be found here.
Stress is part of the workplace, especially in high-pressure jobs like bookkeeping. But it can be effectively managed, and your bookkeeper can continue to perform their role of keeping your company’s financial matters in good order.
If your bookkeeper is stressed, we can help. We specialize in serving businesses that don't need a full-time bookkeeper or senior accountant. We are flexible enough to accommodate nearly any business accounting requirement -- whether you need us a few hours per day, a few days per week, or a few days per month. Our team members can work in your office or we can work virtually using a combination of internet, phone, mail, and fax. Contact us today!
If you or a family member have been assigned bookkeeper responsibilities, the stress is doubled. Do not hesitate to contact us.
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