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Self-Care Boosts Retention, Crushes Burnout for Finance Pros 

May 20, 2024
woman drinking water and reading a tablet at work

The World Health Organization defines burnout as “workplace stress left unmanaged,” and declared it an occupational phenomenon in 2019. Burnout expert Jennifer Moss suggests that overwork was responsible for 2.8 million deaths per year pre-pandemic, a number that’s likely increased since then.  

In addition to its adverse effects on employee health, burnout correlates negatively with employee retention. According to research, 46% of HR leaders say employee burnout is responsible for up to half of annual workforce turnover. 

Turnover is costly for organizations – A Gallup report found that U.S. businesses lose $1 trillion every year due to voluntary employee turnover. The Society of Human Resource Management reports that an employee departure costs about one-third of that worker’s annual earnings, including soft costs like lost knowledge and hard costs like background checks for replacement candidates.  

To avoid turnover, burnout researcher Rachel Montañez suggests in Forbes that organizations give employees opportunities to practice self-care at work in ways that are personalized and meaningful. AvidXchange’s recent national survey with the Controllers Council (conducted March 5-19, 2024 with 378 respondents participating across North America) underscored this, with 46% of finance professionals indicating that they would like to engage in self-care at work but are unable to due to a heavy workload.  

Accounting and Finance Talent Shortages recently reported that a staggering 84% of CFOs are facing a “significant” talent shortage within their accounting and finance teams. This talent scarcity highlights a critical need for organizations to prioritize employee retention.  

The drive for technical skills coupled with a drop in new accounting graduates has intensified this talent shortage, making it imperative for businesses to offer more than just a competitive salary and traditional health benefits.  

In AvidXchange’s recent Controllers Council survey (March 2024), the vast majority (75%) of respondents indicated that salary and benefits are “extremely important” when considering a job opportunity. But many respondents also ranked other factors as “extremely important,” including advancement opportunities and internal mobility (43%), the ability to focus on more strategic work (41%), and access to automation tools and technology (32%).  

The following benefits are "extremely important" when considering a job opportunity

Salary and benefits
Advancement opportunities / internal mobility
Ability to focus on more strategic work
Remote or hybrid work environment
Access to automation tools / technology

Source: AvidXchange / Controllers Council Survey, March 2024

Organizations must consider adapting to these dynamics, compensating employees fairly while fostering an environment where professional growth, access to technology, and mitigating burnout by promoting self-care are integrated into the fabric of their culture. 

Ways to Support Self-Care at Work

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, “Self-care means taking the time to do things that help you live well and improve both your physical health and mental health. This can help you manage stress, lower your risk of illness, and increase your energy.”  

To prevent employee burnout at your workplace, consider empowering your employees to engage in self-care with curated opportunities.  

Flexible Schedules

Flexible schedules help employees to balance work and personal life, reducing stress from rigid routines. Teammates can adapt work hours to their peak productivity times and accommodate personal commitments, fostering a sense of autonomy.  

For example, wellness coaching business Exos implemented “You Do You Fridays” when staff cannot e-mail, text, or set meetings with colleagues. Employees are free to do whatever they feel they need to on these days, whether that’s catching up on work or recharging with a hike outdoors. Exos found that enabling intentional recovery powered higher performance for employees. Additionally, employee burnout levels dropped from 70% to 30%.  

Remote Work

Remote work also offers flexibility, eliminating commute stress and allowing employees to customize their work environment. It promotes better work-life balance, as individuals can more easily manage personal obligations.  

A recent Conference Board study found that hybrid workers have the highest job satisfaction rating (65.5%), followed by fully remote employees (64.1%) and full-time office workers (60.2%).  

Access to Services

Offering access to services like therapy and yoga classes can provide employees with resources to manage stress and enhance well-being. These wellness services help employees develop coping strategies, fostering resilience and reducing burnout in the workplace. 

Whether employers offer these services in-office (e.g., a lunchtime yoga class) or cover part of their cost via benefits programs, research shows that employees say mental health resources improve stressful work environments.  

Ability to Take Personal Time

The American Psychological Association says vacations are correlated with better health outcomes like less stress, lower rates of heart disease, and reduced depression and anxiety. And the Harvard Business Review says taking more vacation time results in greater success at work. Encouraging staff to take vacation is a win-win for businesses and employees.  

However, our 2023 AP Career Satisfaction Survey found that only 22% of AP professionals took their full allotment of paid time off (PTO) in 2022. Thirty-five percent took less than half of their PTO. Many AP pros likely feel their workload is too high and business-critical to take time off.  

How to Find the Time for Self-Care

While the value of self-care for retention is clear, employees may struggle to find the time to engage in self-care activities when their workload feels overwhelming.  

An Ernst & Young study cited in the Harvard Business Review found that for each additional 10 hours of vacation employees took, their year-end performance ratings improved 8%, and frequent vacationers were significantly less likely to resign.  

Knowing that promoting self-care positively impacts the employee and the employer, businesses may want to invest in reducing workload for employees so they have the time to take care of themselves. One way to do this is by leveraging technology, including automation and artificial intelligence (AI) to cut down on tedious manual tasks. 

In AP departments in particular, AI-powered automation solutions can free up time by reducing job duties such as:  

✅  Coding invoices
Manually routing invoices for approval  
Filing and locating physical paperwork 
Physically matching invoices to POs and order receipts 
Doing a check run 
Stuffing and stamping envelopes to mail checks  

In our Controllers Council survey (March 2024), respondents agreed that they would like to eliminate monotonous tasks from their workday such as manually entering data (58%), manually routing invoices and payments for approval (43%), and printing and mailing checks (33%). 

Which of the following tasks would you most like to eliminate from your workday?

Manually entering data
Manually routing invoices and payments for approval
Resolving exceptions
Printing and mailing checks
Onboarding and vetting new suppliers

Source: AvidXchange / Controllers Council Survey, March 2024

In our 2023 AP Career Satisfaction Survey, we found that 94% of AP professionals would embrace a tool to automate the most repetitive parts of their job. Three in four respondents said automation technology will have a positive impact on their careers in the long term.  

The Summer of Self-Care

This summer, make it a priority to promote self-care within your organization:  

✅  Research automation and AI solutions that can help free up time for your team. AvidXchange can help automate invoice processing and payments within your finance and accounting department.  
✅  Encourage teammates to take PTO this summer and throughout the year to recharge and care for themselves. 
✅  Lead by example. For instance, schedule walking meetings, attend a lunchtime fitness class, or sign off early on a Friday. Set a precedent for self-care on your team.  
✅  Start small if overhauling your processes and organizational culture feels like too much. You can begin with simple acts like eating your lunch outside and inviting colleagues to join you away from their desks.  

Make this summer the beginning of a new era for your team – One that prioritizes self-care and reaps the benefits of happier, healthier employees, better productivity, and reduced turnover.  

A female and two male co-workers looking at a tablet.

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