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Heavier Workloads, Higher Stress, Lower Morale All a Result of Recession

May 7, 2009 — In addition to putting a heavy burden on accounting and finance departments, the recession has contributed to heavier workloads, higher stress levels and lower morale.

A global survey by Robert Half International also found that companies are changing their management strategies in order to maintain productivity and alleviate the burden on their employees.

The survey found that 32% of U.S. respondents (compared to 40% globally) said their finance and accounting departments had been affected by the recession. Among those, 49% of U.S. respondents have a hiring freeze in place, 47% have consolidated roles and 38% have experienced layoffs. According to survey results, 60% of executives from Hong Kong and France and 56% of executives in Brazil reported the highest levels of personnel change.

Survey results show that 48% of U.S. respondents said the economic conditions have increased their stress levels, compared to 39% globally. Managers in Australia, Ireland and the United States reported the highest levels of stress among their financial teams (48%). Twenty-nine percent of respondents said their accounting and finance teams have remained unaffected by the recession.

In the United States, 62% (compared to 70% globally) of respondents said they have taken some form of action to better support their teams. According to the survey, the most common measures employers are taking include redistributing workloads, increasing communication with staff and postponing projects. The survey found that 46% of managers in Ireland and Singapore said increased communication was a best practice.

“Leaner teams mean that everyone is doing more work with fewer resources, which ultimately produces diminishing returns,” said Max Messmer, chairman and CEO of Robert Half International. “As a result, managers are rebalancing assignments in an effort to prevent overwork and ensure team members are focused on the most critical projects.”

The survey found that 56% of managers worldwide said they continue to have trouble finding skilled job candidates for accounting and finance positions; 32% of U.S. managers said they were having trouble finding good people (down from 72% last year). Countries having the hardest time finding skilled workers are Hong Kong (87%), Brazil (79%) and Japan (73%).

Nearly half of managers in the United States (40%) said they were concerned about losing key staff to other job opportunities (compared to 53% globally); 44% of managers in New Zealand said they were having trouble finding skilled job candidates and 67% said they were concerned about losing their top performers in the next year. Eighty-nine percent of managers in Hong Kong, 87% in Spain and 82% in Singapore reported concern about potential staff turnover.

“Even in a downturn, companies make holding on to their top performers a priority,” Messmer said. “They cannot afford to lose good accounting and finance employees without also experiencing productivity and performance losses.”

Survey methodology
The study, focusing on hiring difficulties, retention concerns and other staffing-related issues, is based on a survey of more than 4,800 hiring managers in finance and human resources across 21 countries. This year, the report also examined the effects of the global economic downturn on financial teams around the world. The overall margin of error is +/- 1.3 percent, and the results are within 95% certainty.

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