The Romans coined the idea of "Mens sana in corpore sano" — a healthy mind in a healthy body — two thousand years ago, and over the past couple of years, the Best Firms to Work For have been paying more and more attention to the first part of that equation.
They've been supporting their employees' physical health for much longer than that (as we discussed yesterday), but the tremendous impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has shone a spotlight on employees' mental health. The uncertainty, anxiety, and isolation brought on by the abrupt switch to a pandemic environment, combined with the very real new burdens created by having children at home and a massive crush of new work to do for clients to help them stay afloat, have stressed staff more than ever before — and it's worth remembering that accounting firms are pretty stressful places to begin with, with big workloads and lots of tight deadlines.
In this highly charged environment, the Best Firms have been rolling out resources to help their staff handle the pressure, such as online or in-person courses, meditation apps like Calm, and more. For instance, in North Carolina, Martin Starnes & Associates reported, "Many times throughout the pandemic, MSA provided sessions for employee stress reduction and relief. Employees learned how to de-stress through breathing techniques and other methods. Skills learned can be used at work and in personal situations, too."
And at Texas-based Badger CPA, "We offer our staff three free counseling sessions with a professional counselor. We also pay for and give our staff access to a website where they can view mental health and wellness videos called RightNow Media." (The firm also does more traditional annual health and wellness challenges every year; this year's is around the most steps taken in a month.)
There are many people you can turn to for help in dealing with the stresses of modern life in general and our current high-stress period in particular; many of the Best Firms give staff access to mental health professionals, while Alabama's BMSS takes a slightly different approach: "Our Corporate Chaplain program allows our employees a confidential resource for help during challenging times in their life."
Of course, not all mental health issues call for a visit to a therapist or chaplain. Some can be helped simply by getting away from work for a bit; we'll talk more on later days about how many of the Best Firms incentivize staff with time off, but for now it's worth noting efforts like New Jersey-based WilkinGuttenplan's "Disconnect Days," where the entire firm shuts down and disconnects from work. Knowing no one else will be working (and judging your absence) can take a day of rest and relaxation to the next level.
This is Day Seven. Click here for other installments in 20 Days to Better Firm.