Ellis Ng, journalist

While a career in accountancy can offer high levels of job satisfaction, there is growing evidence that mounting pressures are having an impact on finance professionals’ mental wellbeing.

According to Global Talent Trends 2024, a major new global survey from ACCA, 57% of respondents said that their mental health is suffering because of work pressures, with almost two-thirds saying that they would like more support from their employers and 47% believing that their employer did not consider employee mental health a priority.

‘Recognition and reward systems acknowledge those who live the organisation’s values’

Build a nurturing culture

‘Creating a culture of psychological safety within a firm is pivotal for nurturing a conducive work environment,’ says Farid Basir, chief people officer at Malaysia’s MBSB Bank. ‘It’s not just about awareness; it’s about arming leaders with the necessary skills to cultivate this safety net.’

Building a nurturing culture is a strategic necessity for organisations and goes beyond employee retention, says Janice Foo, head of people for KPMG in Singapore.

First and foremost, senior leadership must set an example by communicating the organisation’s values. ‘This should be enhanced by relevant training and resources to help employees foster an inclusive and understanding culture,’ Foo says.

It’s also important to recognise, reward and review progress, she adds: ‘Recognition and reward systems strengthen the nurturing culture by acknowledging those who live the organisation’s values and positively contribute to the workspace.’

Access resources

All of KPMG’s member firms within the Asia-Pacific region have several policies and resources to provide employees with support, explains Ivana Arlianto, head of people at KPMG Asia Pacific.

The accounting network has partnered with MindForward Alliance, a non-profit membership organisation, to ensure member firms have access to mental health resources and frameworks.

‘We ensure our mandatory learnings include training programmes on mental health and wellness,’ Arlianto says.

‘With constant and transparent communication, talents will trust their employers more’

‘There’s a lot that can be done and we’re constantly learning from each other,’ she adds. ‘Starting from the tone at the top, I believe we will only make progress if the leadership is embracing it boldly and visibly.’

Winning at the workplace

‘Firms should focus on creating a conducive workplace that also offers competitive compensation and benefits that employees can live by,’ Basir says.

There is a correlation between opportunities for skill development and employees’ mental wellbeing, Basir adds, noting that as firms upskill and reskill their talent, employees find new purpose in their roles.

Arlianto believes that a robust listening strategy is key, pointing out that KPMG runs people surveys on a global, regional and local level to ensure that they hear honest and unbiased voices.

‘Our people want to work for a purpose-led, values-driven firm where diversity is valued,’ she says. ‘They want to be part of a forward-thinking firm where their voices are heard and wellbeing is supported.’

Worth the cost

Arlianto believes that workplace awareness of mental health and wellbeing is gaining momentum in the region. ‘There has been a growing awareness about the importance of mental health in supporting employees,’ she says. ‘Firms in the region are expanding their mental health programmes instead of rolling them back.’

‘Encouraging open conversations and removing stigma fosters a culture that values seeking help’

Though these policies might initially incur costs, prioritising mental health shouldn’t be a trade-off, says Basir. ‘It’s an integration that influences a more engaged workforce, impacting sustainable profitable growth,’ he says.

‘Investing in mental health initiatives like counselling services and flexible work arrangements is key to supporting the team. Encouraging open conversations and removing stigma fosters a culture that values seeking help.’

Ultimately, the long-term benefits, like improved productivity and increased employee engagement, often outweigh initial expenditures, Basir argues. ‘Prioritising employee wellbeing contributes to a healthier and more engaged workforce.’

Foo says that KPMG is ensuring that employees are equipped to thrive in an evolving landscape by prioritising wellbeing above all: ‘Ultimately, a workforce that is well in all aspects is a workforce that is fit for purpose and fit for the future.’