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‘Always on’ for work? Flip the Switch Off Before it Shuts You Down

Always on for work Flip the Switch Off Before it Shuts You Down

Editor’s Note: Recently we attended a much-needed webinar by ReceiptBank on how to scale one’s practice in uncertain times. Needless to say, it’s the question that the entire accounting community is wondering about. So, here’s part 1 of a three-part series on ‘How to Scale Your Practice’ featuring some proactive accountants from ReceiptBank, AccountingWEB and the Accountants Millionaire's Club.

There’s a moment that occurs quite often everyday in an accountant’s life– in the middle of all things, the phone screen goes blank and you get a look at your harrowed, crisscrossed face reflected on the black mirror. Right there and then, this inevitable thought crosses most of our minds: “Are we living a life where our major relationship is with a glowing, buzzing cell phone device?”

Accountants are always on. Blame it on client-service, business plans, new enquiries or whatever is you think is keeping you on – the pressure just keeps rising. Practitioners can’t step out of the house without their laptops in tow or go to the bathroom without their cellphones. Our clients text at all hours expecting a quick response; skipping lunch is new performance statement at work and overwork awarded with incentives. You may take it as a joke or a compliment but the truth is – “on” all the time.

But the sad thing about that is – it doesn’t even work. Research shows the stocking up on the sheer number of hours you are working, doesn’t make you more productive at work. In fact, it backfires.

In fact, some effects of overwork are even more sinister. According to a TotalJobs survey that quizzed 2,000 people about their dreams, one in three reported to waking up having dreamt about work. In fact, some 28 per cent said that they have a nightmare about work at least once a week.

Clearly, the logical endpoint of excessively avid work, of course, is burnout. Hence, if you are often “on” for months at a time, then switching off is the key. There are ways to be happily out of reach without being out of a job:

1. Schedule a 15-minute break before you burn out

This Harvard backed-up solution to occupational burn out can easily slither into our calendars without any major digressions. -The challenge is to find time to step away for 15 minutes from your work. You could block out a couple of planned 15-minute intermissions on your calendar.

-Next, find something active you can do with this time and put it on your calendar. Take a walk, stretch while listening to a song, or go out with a co-worker for a snack. If these activities strike you as too passive, use the time to run an errand. The critical thing is to step away from your computer so that your focus is relaxed and your mind drifts.

-Finally, notice your energy level when you return. You are bound to feel invigorated, both because you’ve allowed your brain some rest and because the physical movement has elevated your heart rate.

If this feels like a dereliction of duty, remember that the human brain was not built for extended focus.

2. Let Go of the Fear of Missing Out

The only thing that’s eating away at an accountant’s productivity is the inability to take a break or completely disconnect for a while. A lot of that has to do with the fear of what will happen in your absence. 

Heather Townsend of The Accountants Millionaire's Club has a fantastic solution for the control freak in all of us: take responsibility for the worst to happen. According to Townsend, very often, it is a fear that we are going to miss an urgent email from a client or a prospect whilst we are away, which tricks us into thinking we need to continually check our email when we are away. If you want to be able to take a proper break when you are on holiday, you need to take responsibility for that to happen. A little change in your mindset can do wonders! Here are some ways to get started:

- Set expectations with your team: Agree with your team about what they can contact you about while you’re away. You may find it useful to get them to think about all the questions and queries they may have when you are away.

- Use technology in your favour: Put an out of the office on your email. Most reasonable people will respect an out of office message.

3. Flexi-Time

Not too far away from here, Alistair Hayward-Wright, owner of a Midlands-based practice, found himself in a soup. The constants pings on his phone, a bloated inbox and skipped lunch breaks had blurred the lines between work and home for him; resulting in a total crash.

Mel Dowie of ReceiptBank had a similar story. “I’m working all of these hours and I am bending over backwards. It was like one day I woke up and thought: ‘This has got to change.’”

And that’s when they found a solution to restore work-life balance: flexi-time.

In RecieptBank’s recent webinar on the always-on work culture, Hayward-Wright said, “We encourage people to not stretch themselves.” He established a flexi-time routine for his staff which was a boon for staff members with young families. No more excuses for school drop-offs and pick-ups.

On the personal front, Hayward –Wright had learnt how to put personal barriers in place; like 8 to 6 for emails Monday to Friday. Taking control of your time and establishing boundaries will prevent work from taking over your life. The idea is to claim control for what matters in the end – your well-being.

It starts with you…

Delivering a good customer service doesn’t mean you are bending over backwards. Besieging control has a lot to do with your welfare and sanity.

Most successful workplaces are those where managers actively encourage colleagues to take a break and set a good example by taking one themselves. There will be days when dangling deadliness and project deliveries will cloud over your sense of self-care but a team-spirit approach works the best. Perhaps by answering the phone while someone else pops out and vice versa, can help create a culture in which everyone reaps the benefits of a healthy attitude towards taking a break.

Don’t follow the desk-bound masses, take that much-required break or even a week-long sabbatical to flip that switch off for a while.

You're almost there: switching off is the first step. Stay tuned for part 2 and part 3 of the blog to find out what the experts think your next step should be to scale your practice. Because, if you must end up on the grid then why not use your screen time to do something for your practice? Read more >>

About Rishmita Aich

My name is Rishmita and I’m an aspiring journalist and blogger. I love telling stories – of people and brands. When I’m not too busy typing out incessantly on the computer, you’ll find me reading some old American classics or petting some furry stray cats.