StressThe summer months can be a stressful period for financial auditors working at the National Audit Office. This is because the majority of our audit work starts a few weeks after the year end (typically March) and clients are encouraged to complete certification of their financial statements before the end of July. Certification involves the signing of the audit report by the Comptroller and Auditor General of the NAO (currently Amyas Morse) and formal presentation of the accounts before Parliament. As Parliament leaves for summer recess towards the end of July (22 July this year), the deadline for certification tends to be just before this date.

During the final audit period, many of my colleagues (and me!) have numerous ways of coping with the extra work load and stress that is involved. I’ve discussed the most popular ideas with the people I work with and have outlined the most interesting below. Some of these can also be applicable to other stressful scenarios!

  1. Work out a “budget”of the number of hours you feel able to work each week, preferably on a daily basis, and try to stick to this;
  2. Don’t do any work on weekends and try to plan fun activities (such as meeting up with friends or family) regularly. Such planning makes sure you have things to look forward to other than work;
  3. Take an hour off on a week night to watch your favourite television programme (such as The Apprentice!);
  4. Remember that it’s not your responsibility to solve all the issues or problems that the client is having;
  5. Make time to eat out with colleagues when working away on local audit;
  6. Cycle or walk to work, the hotel or restaurants where possible (fresh air always helps with relaxing!). Or, go to the hotel gym if you’re feeling really active;
  7. Play fun games (such as board games) when you have time to spare on an evening with the colleagues you are working away with;
  8. Make time to have light hearted conversations with the client (while bearing in mind the need to be professional, of course!);
  9. If possible, depending on the location and proximity of your hotel, go for a rest in your lunch break; and
  10. Take regular breaks from working at your desk, for example to make a cup of tea or coffee. This will help reduce headaches and relieve stress, too.

Using some of the above tips helps keep us all sane, productive and happy during the busiest time of the year. Hopefully they can help some of you, too!

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