ICAEW.com works better with JavaScript enabled.
Exclusive content
Access to our exclusive resources is for specific groups of students, subscribers, users and members.
As we enter the busy season, we tell you the signs of stress to watch for in yourself and your team, and how ICAEW and caba can help.

Even if you are used to the stresses and strains of audit busy seasons, the next one always brings fresh professional and personal challenges. The 2022/23 reporting system will give auditors plenty of technical matters to think about: adopting and adapting to the new international quality management standards, the revised risk assessment ISA (315) and the revised UK fraud standard (240), to name but a few.

There are also more personal matters to consider, such as how to maintain your physical and emotional wellbeing and manage the stresses and strains of the busy season.

Stress levels appear to be higher in this profession than in others and accountants seem less inclined to address the issues. In a study by caba, the occupational charity for ICAEW members, 56% of the accountants surveyed said they were suffering with stress and burnout, compared with 41% of employees across a wide range of sectors, business sizes and job roles. Accountants were also more likely to be concerned about the impact on their career of admitting that they were suffering from stress – despite support being available from their employers:

Other insights from the survey can be can be viewed on our website.

Dr Cristian Holmes, Chief Executive of caba, says: “While accountancy is a demanding profession, it’s important for all of us to understand when stress becomes unmanageable and how to seek more formal support. We would encourage all members of the community to use resources supplied by their employer, as well as those available from caba and other support charities.”

The caba website offers many useful articles, webinars and other resources to help you identify and manage the symptoms of stress in yourself and those around you.

Taking action – to help the team

Research indicates there are six areas that, if left unchecked, can lead to workplace stress and burnout. Recognising their potential impact on the team can help managers to minimise problems and make improvements.


Are the demands of roles reasonable? Do people have the resources they need to fulfil responsibilities assigned to them? Small amounts of stress can be useful, but a constant feeling of being overwhelmed can have a real impact on our physical and mental health.

Does your team feel appreciated? Are their achievements recognised and rewarded?
A perceived mismatch between the rewards for a job and effort and time put into it can make people feel disengaged and unmotivated.

Are people receiving fair and equitable treatment? Are decisions that affect them being clearly and effectively communicated? Without transparency and trust in the workplace, creativity, innovation, commitment and contentment can be inhibited.

Lack of control
Do members of the team feel an appropriate sense of autonomy and agency within their role? Giving people a say in decisions that relate to their role can have a positive effect on wellbeing and engagement.

Do people feel a sense of belonging? Can they support each other? Do they feel safe speaking up when things become overwhelming for them?
Without the presence of strong relationships and a sense of togetherness within an organisation, people can develop feelings of isolation and discontent.

Do your behaviours create an environment where people feel that it’s OK for them to look after their own wellbeing? Are personal and organisational values aligned? Spending too much time working on something that does not align with our personal values can lead to mental and physical lethargy.

Resources from caba

There is advice to help managers spot some of the warning signs of stress and poor mental health among team members, with tips on how to respond.

Starting supportive conversations is a good way to explore what might be behind any difficulty. Some people may need encouragement and asking open, supportive questions can be a way to begin the dialogue. For example: What part of your job is most difficult at the moment? How does your workload feel right now? What one thing can I do better to support you? Is there anything I can take off your plate, help you delegate, or help you prioritise? What kind of flexibility do you need right now? Is there anything unclear or blocking your work.

There are also tips from caba on setting clear goals, highlighting accomplishments or achievements by individuals or the team, and helping them to protect their time – and wellbeing – even when they do not do so themselves.

Taking action – to help yourself

There is a faculty webinar (produced in association with caba) to help you maintain your wellbeing during the audit busy season.

It considers matters such as: knowing when to ask for help; tips on handling difficult conversations with clients; the challenges of remote working relating to productivity, boundaries and maintaining motivation in the digital space. It looks at resilience and emotional intelligence and offers techniques on managing stress for yourself and those around you. It also gives links to ICAEW and caba resources.

The following 10 tips can also help you to make small changes that could have a big impact on your wellbeing.

Resources from caba

The charity’s website is a treasure trove of support resources. It’s clearly signposted, and the sections on mental, physical and financial health include articles, tips and pointers to relevant training and events that can help you to better manage many of the stresses and strains of life, the workplace and the audit busy season.

Signs of stress

Whether you are trying to manage your own stress or assist those around you, recognising the symptoms can help you to stop things getting worse.
The caba website offers resources that will assist you, such as its tips on physical and emotional signs to watch out for.

Physical signs

These can include:

Emotional signals

How people feel and behave can also be affected by stress. When you are trying to spot emotional signs and symptoms in colleagues and others around you, it can be helpful to ask yourself some questions:

However, it’s also worth noting that stress may not always be the reason for a “Yes” response to some of these questions.

Audit & Beyond

This article was first featured in the November 2022 edition of Audit & Beyond.

Audit & Beyond November 2022