R U OK? Day is coming up this Thursday 10 September, and The Tax Institute is taking this opportunity to remind tax professionals how important it is to be part of a thriving community. From support in highly emotional times, to advice on technical tax matters, becoming an active part of a professional community is good for your wellbeing – and for your peers’.
“Wellbeing needs to be a priority for every tax professional. It starts with equipping yourself with the tools to be resilient and positive in the face of challenges. This is something the Institute has advocated passionately for throughout the current COVID-19 pandemic,” said The Tax Institute President, Peter Godber.
“But to make your professional networks more meaningful, it’s also important to check in on those around you and recognise what you can do to support the wellbeing of your colleagues, clients and employees.”
The theme of R U OK? Day 2020 is ‘There's more to say after R U OK?’, shining a spotlight on how to follow up with a conversation when your friends, family, clients or colleagues are not coping.
The website states, “You don’t have to be an expert to keep the conversation going when someone says they’re not OK. By knowing what to say you can help someone feel supported and access appropriate help long before they’re in crisis, which can make a really positive difference to their life.”
With the COVID-19 pandemic putting considerable strain on tax professionals, who have shouldered much of the workload when it comes to applying and implementing complex stimulus legislation, this year it is more important than ever to check in on those in our professional circles.
“As professionals and as people, it benefits us all to understand the importance of our emotional and mental state. To take the time to listen to our friends, family and professional community and in turn, be listened to,” Peter said.
How to ask R U OK?
You may feel unsure about how to approach mental health or wellbeing in a professional setting. It helps to keep in mind that R U OK? Day is all about opening up communication and fostering an environment where this kind of discussion is welcome. If this is the first time you’ve approached this subject, that’s okay – you need to start somewhere.
The official R U OK? Day website advises that when you ask, you should:
- Be relaxed, friendly and concerned in your approach.
- Help them open up by asking questions like "How are you going?" or "What’s been happening?"
- Mention specific things that have made you concerned for them, like "You seem less chatty than usual. How are you going?”
After asking, be sure to:
- listen with an open mind
- encourage action (you might suggest they see a doctor, or simply ask them how you can help) and
- follow-up with a check-in a week or two later.
If you’d like more information about how to promote a workplace culture of open and constructive communication around mental health, visit the R U OK? website.
Stay connected to our tax community
One of the most powerful tools for promoting wellbeing in ourselves and those around us is maintaining a strong sense of connection and community. And this is true in your professional life almost as much as in your personal life.
You may have a network of colleagues through your workplace, but for some tax professionals work can sometimes feel like a very solitary pursuit. This might include a sole trader working in their own practice, or those working for small businesses where the whole tax or accounting department is one person: them.
At The Tax Institute, one of our main goals is to create connections between our members, allowing tax practitioners from all walks of life to build that all important sense of belonging. Our new Community platform is a place where the tax profession meets to connect and grow through professional networks.
A strong tax community through The Tax Institute can support you in more ways than one:
Talk with like-minded people
No matter whether you’re a sole trader, an academic, or part of a large corporation, finding a tribe who speak your language – tax – can be very fulfilling. Where else will you find a group of people who understand the intricacies of PAYG withholding obligations under the PSI rules or making Div 7A loan repayments through journals? Shared experiences, challenges and goals help us feel supported, which is especially important during the current upheaval and heavy workload in our profession.
Seek support on challenging technical work
With everything that has happened in the world of tax this year, you may be feeling a little overwhelmed at needing to keep up with legislation changes, JobKeeper rules and your usual client obligations. Our experts and our extensive network of volunteer authors, speakers and presenters are supporting tax professionals with resources like our handy JobKeeper 2.1 infographic and topical webinar events.
Our community of active tax practitioners is also an incredible pool of practical knowledge and experience you can draw on.
Get tips on handling tough client situations
How do you approach a conversation with a client nearing bankruptcy? What do you do when planning an estate takes an emotional turn? As a tax professional, a network of peers who have wrestled with these same tense situations can be an invaluable resource in building your own communication strategies, and in supporting you through the strain such situations can put on your own wellbeing.
“As tax professionals, we are privy to some of the highs and lows of our client’s lives. Selling family businesses, downsizing, divorce, financial strife – these are the times when we may be needed most. A good network of peers can support you through dealing with these situations,” Peter said.
Find mentors to guide you
If you are newer to the tax profession, having a mentor who understands your path and will help to guide you through your career can be a huge advantage. An experienced mentor can help relieve a lot of the uncertainty, anxiety and stress you may feel while making choices about the future of your career, discovering a speciality, or settling into a new work environment.
Be a lifeline for someone else
Part of belonging to a community is also lending a helping hand to those who need it. You may have technical expertise or professional experience to share. Or maybe you can simply be a sympathetic ear.
This R U OK? Day, reach out to your professional network of clients, employees, colleagues and peers to check in on someone who may need it.
Make connections that matter. Join our Community forum.
Members can sign up to become part of our Community forum here. If you’re not yet a member, being part of our Community discussions and support system is just one of the benefits. Learn more about membership here.