Ever changing compliances and legislations (with no room for error): A few CAs open up about dealing with burnout. 

How chartered accountants recover from burnout by prioritizing mental health

There is a big hue and cry about the Great Resignation. 

Some of us want to be a part of a purpose-driven organization, and the other half want a way out because of labour exploitation! 

Employers may unintentionally exploit their employees; thanks to technology, continuous innovation, excessive competition and funding pressure - we all want to surpass our limits.

The accountancy industry has changed – almost beyond recognition. Pressures of ever-changing legislation and compliance with no room for error make the Chartered Accountants guilty to take time off work.

When we talk about Chartered Accountants, the pressure is a lot more than discussed. 

Here are a few CAs who dealt with burnout, and took action before it got out of hand.  

Entrepreneurship was a solution to deal with a burnout 

After a decade in the corporate world, Ronel Jooste, a qualified chartered accountant from South Africa quit her position as Head of Group Financial Reporting. 

Why? Because she realized that prioritizing her health and happiness comes first. 

She says, 

“After qualifying as a CA at the end of 2004, I started my career with Momentum Group (a listed financial services group.) 

I spent the first two years in a senior internal auditor position and gained a great understanding of the financial processes, systems, financial products, risk management etc. 

Later was promoted to Head of Group Financial Reporting.

After a decade of continuing with this routine, I was no longer feeling happy and fulfilled in my job. 

I soon discovered that a lot of professionals were facing a similar situation.

Upon reflection, I noticed that my financial well-being was flourishing, whereas my physical and emotional well-being was taking the strain. 

By Nov 2015 I quit the corporate world, and my sister and I started PhysEQFiT (Pty) Ltd – a company specializing in holistic wellness.

Being an entrepreneur was not easy. But building a venture that adds value to other people’s lives made all of the difference.” 

Read my full story here.

Learning the importance of “Health before Wealth”

Murray Barnetson, a Chartered Accountant from South Africa worked relentlessly for 17 years. It reached a point where he resorted to stimulants to make up for his lost sleep, caused by work-related stress.

In 1999, my wife and I left for the UK to get some international experience. After a few years, we did return to South Africa to run a new catering business my family had recently set up. 

The company was growing well but again, events outside of our control including the 2008 crash, forced us to close that unit down too. 

All was well but by 2011 I started getting bored and once again took the entrepreneurial leap – I started Part-Time FD to provide financial director services to several clients.

The service provider business was difficult to scale and like most entrepreneurs, with each day, I kept working harder.

My partner, Willem Haarhoff, also a CA, joined me in 2016 as part of the strategy to scale, but as a self-proclaimed control freak, I wasn’t able to delegate.

By 2017, I was the CFO for 15-20 clients and was working from 6 am to 10 pm, throughout the week. I was on stimulants and then eventually sleeping tablets too.

The unrelenting schedule and medication turned out to be a lethal combination. Then sometime in August of 2017, I started getting chest pain. 

It was then that I was officially diagnosed with severe burnout!

On the work front, I pulled back and my partner took on a lot of the clients.

It took me nearly 3.5 years before I could function for eight hours a day again.

Make sure you are getting a decent night’s sleep and some exercise, even just a thirty-minute walk every day.”

Read the full story here

Also Read

After relentlessly working for 17 years this CA from South Africa overcame a massive burnout. Here is how.

Quitting the hectic Big 4 life

Yes, we all have been in the situation of choosing wealth over health, especially when we are starting our careers. But little do we know about the repercussions.  

Varun Valecha and his wife Snigdha Kumar qualified as Chartered Accountants on their first attempt. Going for a Big 4 firm was a no-brainer because it promised them high-paying jobs and comfortable life. 

He says,

“Like most over-enthusiastic and over-ambitious CA freshers, I too aimed to get into a Big 4 firm. It promised me a high-paying job and a comfortable life. What else do you need right?

I started my career at Grant Thornton.  

Everything was going according to plan until the truth about working in a Big accounting firm hit me.

The late nights, frequent outstation flights and crazy deadlines became a little overwhelming for me.

Not just because it was stressful, but because I started missing out on a lot of things happening in my life.

After some self-reflection, I realised that a job that takes a toll on my mental health without a work-life balance is not what I signed up for and therefore took the decision to quit.

Honestly, I left my job without any plan other than the assurance that I would join my father’s business.

But I am glad it didn't turn into a full-fledged burnout. Today I run my own firm, V Valecha & Co, with my wife (co-founder) alongside me. I have never been happier.”   

Read the full story here. 

Dealing with the pressure of being an entrepreneur 

In an interesting conversation with the COO of Credit Fair, he mentioned how he gracefully accepted that things were not working out. 

Vikas Agarwal says,

In 2019 I cofounded SSA Finserv, an MSME-Focused NBFC. Starting an NBFC is an expensive and challenging affair. But my work experience in relevant fields made the transition easier. 

We raised $3 million in equity capital with a commitment from investors of another USD15 million. 

We started building our products, processes, dept. like Credit & Underwriting, Operations,  A/cs, etc.

Unfortunately, after a while, Covid 19 pandemic forced countless businesses to shut down. 

Investors were not willing to invest in the MSME sector anymore. This impacted us negatively.…. 

Surely it was not easy coping when things didn't work out, I was stressing over whether I should take the difficult path or not, after coming this far.

Thankfully my mentor gave me some sage advice, “In this fast-paced world when you try new avenues a lot of things will not work out. Learn to Move On”

I decided to sell my shares in the company. In hindsight, it was a wise decision.”

Also Read

On the brink of burnout this CA quit her thriving corporate career & built a business focussed on wellness

Meditation can help

CA Pavan Sharma shares how meditation has helped him deal with successes and failures. 

"I cleared CPT, IPCC on the first attempt. Also started with CS and articles simultaneously. 

I would work all day (Articles), and at night I would study for my CS Intermediate exams.

It may seem too hectic and it surely was… but yoga and meditation helped me survive this phase. My mind was so focused and relaxed even during the exams.” 

Meditation is a simple breathing exercise without thinking about anything. If thoughts come in, let them pass, you just have to focus on your breathing.

The main cause of Great Resignation  

Swanand Kelkar, is a Chartered Accountant (CA) of India. He took a sabbatical in 2020 to pursue his passion for yoga and cricket among others. 

He shares,

“I think the lockdown in a way has forced people to confront the questions that they were trying to brush under the carpet. 

‘What do I really want in my life?’ 

A lot of people are saying that they want to spend time with their family and friends instead of toiling mindlessly.  

So many people have already opted for a 4-day work week.

To talk of The Great Resignation, I think the root of great resignation can be attributed to understanding that maybe money, power, and fame, are not everything.” 

Also Read

The corporate life did not let CA Swanand Kelkar - former MD, Morgan Stanley, pursue his other passions. Hence at the age of 40 he decided to take a year-long sabbatical.

Promote a healthy work-life balance 

Irrespective of our organization's culture, it is in our hands to define how we shape our mental and physical well-being.

And as business owners, and leaders it is on us to help our team members make the most during work hours and not cross the work-life boundary. 

Working overtime is not just detrimental to the mental and physical well-being of the employees, it’s detrimental to your business as well.

However, advice like this that Shantanu Deshpande, CEO of Bombay Shaving Co posted on LinkedIn.

“When you are 22 and new in your job, throw yourself into it. Eat well and stay fit, but put in the 18-hour work days for at least 4-5 years.”

As for employees, we all know there is a thin line to this… but hard work and passion to achieve more should never be mixed with being exploited

Encouraging an 18-hour workday is a recipe for deadly burnout.  

Remember your work is not your life but a part of it.


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