NEWS December 03, 2023

Accountants ‘happy but suffer from overwork, insufficient exercise’

The main challenges come from increasing regulation and compliance, although job satisfaction rates are high, survey finds.

Four out of five accountants are happy in their jobs but more than 40 per cent suffer health impacts from overwork, citing increasing regulation and the “category killer” compliance, according to a survey by life insurer PPS Mutual.

In addition, more than one-third expressed mental health concerns from stress related to work targets, deadlines and continuous change.

PPS Mutual said its inaugural State of Health and Wellbeing in Accounting report was the first to quiz accountants on their physical, mental and financial wellbeing.

It found most accountants cited an understanding employer, flexible working hours, exposure to diverse business services and good team members as key to job satisfaction.

PPS Mutual CEO Michael Pillemer said the research revealed the profession was in good shape, with 80 per cent highly satisfied with their employment. Where employees were unhappy it was often due to long working hours, too much work, or the category killer of compliance.

“Challenges in the accounting profession are real and pressing, with compliance obligations (42 per cent) and the impact of new regulations (28 per cent) topping the list,” Mr Pillemer said.

One in four also cited concerns about paperwork and administration, regulatory uncertainty, succession planning and staff retention.

In terms of physical well-being, 43 per cent of accountants said their job had a negative impact caused by stress, long working hours and insufficient exercise.

The concerns extended to mental health with 35 per cent experiencing a negative impact from stress related to work targets, seasonal pressures, strict deadlines, miscommunication and continuous change.

However, just one in 10 cited concerns about mental health.

“More can be done within the industry to address these challenges and provide support to accountants, ensuring their well-being is prioritised in the profession,” Mr Pillemer said.

It found health concerns centred on the dangers of cardiovascular disease or cancer in the next 10 years, with 29 per cent expecting “significant health issues”.

“Cancer is the most cited health risk, with a third of accountants thinking they may one day be prone to cancer in the future,” the survey found. “One in five think they will suffer from a heart attack and 17 per cent think they may suffer a stroke.”

The insurance company found just 41 per cent of accountants were highly confident they had financial safeguards in place against critical illness and said they “may have a false sense of security when it comes to risk insurance”.

Mr Pillemer said the survey was prompted by the key role accountants play in the economy.

“We sought to bring some key insights into the drivers behind the health and wellbeing of Australia’s hardworking accountancy profession,” he said.

“Accountants rank among the most trusted professionals in the country and constitute a significant proportion of our small to medium enterprises, which accounted for one-third of Australia’s total GDP in 2022.

“Given the significant role that accountants play across Australia’s taxation, superannuation, business advisory and compliance sectors, the overall wellbeing of this professional group can have a direct impact on our economy and broader community. The continued success and health of the profession are essential.”

The 2023 State of Health and Wellbeing in Accounting Survey was commissioned by PPS Mutual and quizzed a total of 88 participants during March.