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January 31, 2023

An Invasive Remedy for the Big 4 Accounting Blues

Overworked and underappreciated? Running on empty, day in and day out? We have all felt it.

If you have worked in Big 4 accounting and didn’t experience Sunday night anxiety, you're not human. Prolonged spells of feeling overwhelmed can lead to burnout and start to impact your mental health. (Big surprise. #AuditorProud)

As cited by the Wall Street Journal’s Tech News Briefing podcast, employees' mental health costs ring in at $44 billion (with a “B”) each year for things like absences and low productivity according to the University of Michigan Depression Center. Or, if we want a more digestible number, “employers lose 27 work days per worker with depression” based on a study in the American Journal of Psychiatry.

Paging Dr. Smartphone

Lucky for us (or rather our employer’s bottom line), the WSJ podcast introduces an invasive app that some employers are adopting to tackle mental health problems at work. Similar to call-in counselors who have been offered by employers for a long time (with low utilization by employees), is a smartphone app that offers support when you’re feeling blue that's supposed to appeal to Millinneals.

According to the app’s website: offers the right level of care based on your situation. On one day, that might mean ongoing text conversations with a health coach to help you with a difficult relationship. On another, it might mean a live video session with a licensed therapist specializing in anxiety and depression. And at any point you need, helps you move forward with interactive self-care tools.

At first glance, maybe it wouldn’t be bad to have the option to text message with a life coach or counselor when having a horrible day. I admit that it’s always nice to complain to someone other than my manager or significant other… but the health monitoring component is super sketchy.

This may sting a little

Account manager Peter Smith refers to as a “check-engine light for human health” in a Healthline article. It keeps track of your behavior to see if anything out of the normal pops up. According to the website if you “haven’t spoken to anyone in a couple days… your phone automatically sends basic information to your coach, so they can check in on you.” Bah! What if you were just binge watching Netflix?

For as much accolade as the app has gotten by the mental health industry experts, I see red flags all over  the place. Infringement of one’s right to privacy, danger of data breaches, and Orwellian undertones — to name a few. As long as it’s voluntary… we’ll be ok.

Who’s giving it a go?

While I couldn’t find out a good list of companies that have adopted the technology, I can only assume the Big 4 has it on their radar. I would not be surprised if it makes an appearance in the near future.

Of course, it might be easier to not work people to the point of burnout (cough, cough); but, that’s a topic for another day. Who says we can’t dare to dream?

The idea of behavioral analytics is just depressing

Fear not! It’s not too late to jump on the Pokémon GO bandwagon. Doctors claim it is helping with depression too and can be “a stepping stone toward healthier habits and positive self-care.” Just a thought… especially if you are a little too freaked out by the app. At least we have options, right?

What do you think — are smartphone apps the solution to work-induced depression and anxiety; or, are employers crossing the line?

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