How Should Accountants Combat Email Burnout?

Email Burnout

By Wayne Pope

Wayne Pope explores email burnout among accountants and finance professionals. The constant influx of emails and the pressure to be always available for communication can lead to decreased productivity, increased stress levels, and ultimately burnout. How can email-related productivity issues be addressed to improve efficiency and well-being?

Accountants and finance professionals have to deal with vast numbers of enquiries on a daily basis, most of them by email. That’s why it comes as no surprise that they can become so overwhelmed that they suffer from a phenomenon known as “email burnout”.

Given the nature of their job, they are constantly having to make critical financial decisions by collecting, tracking, and correcting the company’s finances. Throw into the mix all the emails that they have to send out and respond to, and it’s a sure-fire recipe for disaster.

By being permanently stuck in an unhealthy “always-on” culture, accountants feel the need to constantly check their emails. But it’s not just in the office; because email is ever-present, they check their phone from the moment they wake up and throughout their commute to and from work, and then when they get home in the evening, at dinner time, and when they go to bed. 

It’s hardly a shock when you consider that the average office worker receives 121 emails and sends about 40 every day, according to DMR. Such is the extent of the problem that, if left unchecked, monitoring emails can soon take over break and lunch times, as well as weekends, holidays, and sick and bereavement leave, because they can’t switch off.

Email burnout may sound like a made-up medical term or an easy excuse for lacking motivation or being disengaged, but it’s a very real problem.

Increased pressure

Accountants are under constant pressure to deliver. Because they are always-on and having to work longer hours than most professions, with little margin for error, stress is much higher among bookkeepers than other roles, according to research by Caba. Consequently, the accuracy of their month-end figures may be compromised because they are struggling to complete the reports on time.

Thanks to the advent of the email, accountants have found themselves increasingly swamped with piecemeal communication, adding to their workload and stress levels. The end result is poor productivity, deteriorating mental health, low morale (both for the individual and their team) and, ultimately, burnout.

Email has been singled out as the biggest barrier to productivity, according to Mail Manager, which found that one in four people spent at least one hour a day going through their inbox. That’s almost one day a week spent managing emails alone. The problem has been magnified by the ability to move between multiple devices, such as phones and laptops, to access it, as well as the ready availability of Wi-Fi networks, meaning that emails can be read almost anywhere.

On the face of it, email is the most convenient form of communication for accountants. But it can also be the most inefficient, with the creation of unnecessarily long email chains when the issue could have been quickly resolved over the phone.

Tackling the problem

Despite the problem of email burnout, there are solutions. But first, accountancy and finance firms need to look at how and why dealing with email damages productivity. The short answer is that it distracts from the main task at hand.

One solution is to limit the number of times that accountants can check their email. This also ensures that the time spent addressing them is used more productively.

Another is to block off time to complete essential jobs and turn off notifications and access to emails during that period. Therefore, the worker will be fully focused on the task and, thus, do it more effectively.

Workload-acceleration tools

Accountants can work more effectively by using workload-acceleration tools. By implementing these within their systems and processes, they can streamline the workflow to ensure that they are only receiving the information and material they need from their clients.

By focusing communication on the required data, files, and tasks to be completed, these secure online workspaces enable the accountant to use their time more efficiently and effectively. This ensures that clients follow a clear set of instructions for the timely submission of documents necessary for the report to be filed, and that nothing is missed.

Alerts can also be set to notify the worker when submissions are complete, while real-time reporting enables progress to be monitored more effectively. Instead of checking emails, the accountant can, therefore, concentrate on the billable work.

The less time spent scrolling through emails, the better the outcome is for everyone. The firm has a more productive employee who is fully focused on the task in hand and whose well-being is protected.

About the Author

wayne popeWayne Pope is founder and CTO of award-winning Glasscubes, which specialises in enabling companies to collaborate with people inside or outside their organisation, using a rich set of tools from client portals, online workspaces, intranets, and information gathering. Glasscubes helps well over 50,000 users in more than 100 countries to maximise their workforce’s potential through an online secure system.

The views expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of The World Financial Review.