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Eight top tips for wellbeing in the workplace

20 January 2020: we spend the majority of our time at work, so our wellbeing in the workplace should be of paramount importance. Sarah Dale, former PwC chartered accountant and now chartered occupational psychologist and founder of Creating Focus, shares her tips.

Accountancy tends to attract hard-working perfectionists, but constant pressure to perform at 100% is not healthy. It’s easy to believe doing one thing that isn’t perfect will make everything unravel, leading to feelings of anxiety, guilt, shame and stress that can make you mentally or physically ill.

Looking after your wellbeing, and your staff’s, is vital in today’s high-pressure workplace. It’s imperative to create an environment where people feel looked after, can ask for help, and can admit they don’t understand or have made a mistake. This isn’t just good for them – the more easily they can do this, the quicker you can solve the problem.

Wellbeing at work is often about changing management mindsets. You need to understand:

1. Nobody’s perfect

No one can be perfect all the time, so don’t pressurise yourself or your staff to be. Much of the time you need only to be ‘good enough’. This may seem alien in such a precise profession, but as long as you meet the accountancy standards, clients would rather get 15 ‘good enough’ audits than one perfect one.

2. Some of the chaos isn’t in your control

Even the best captain on the best ship can’t control the weather. Understand there are some things you can’t change.

3. It’s not selfish to look after yourself

If you’re not in a good place, how can you look after your team and your clients? Learn to understand when you need a break, and let yourself have one.

4. Face-to-face is worth a million emails

It can seem easier and quicker just to press the send button, but you’ll solve more in a five-minute chat, especially where emotion is involved.

5. Some uncertainty is unavoidable

If change is afoot, try not to add to the uncertainty. People cope best with challenging work environments if their manager is clear and reliable.

6. Take a break

Whether a five-minute rest or a two-week holiday, small or long breaks enable us to take a step back, reset and prioritise.

7. Nurture a safe environment

Anxious employees will hide. They’ll either do nothing or try to cover up that they’ve screwed up or don’t understand. This is bad for the practice but also encourages impostor syndrome. People need to know it’s okay to ask for help and are supported to do that. The same goes for asking for help when you need it.

8. Wellbeing is a responsibility and takes courage

You might need to look hard at your organisation to ensure it really is helping its staff and your wellbeing initiatives aren’t just glib platitudes. Some firms have "wellbeing weeks" with fruit and free massages. These can be fantastic, but all the fruit in the world won’t change underlying culture. Be bold, look at the root causes of why and where your staff might need support.