Risk Management

Addressing the mental health challenges CFOs face in the workplace

Companies must combat the stigma of seeking help, according to expert.
article cover

Francis Scialabba

· 3 min read

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Finance leaders, like many in the workforce, can face mental health challenges due to a stressful environment, overwork, and other factors, according to Joyce Marter, a licensed psychotherapist, speaker on mental health in the workplace, and author of The Financial Mindset Fix: A Mental Fitness Program for an Abundant Life.

CFO Brew recently spoke with Marter about common stressors for CFOs (especially those long hours!), mental health challenges tied to remote work, and the steps that organizations can take to champion mental health awareness and healthy practices in the workplace.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

What are some of the mental health challenges that CFOs, other executives, and the teams working under them face?

For all employees, we have been dealing with chronic change and transition and uncertainty. And those are huge stressors for human beings. We don’t like change, and we’ve been in a chronic state of change for four years or more. And we’ve also been dealing with overwork and burnout…the World Health Organization came out with a study [published in journal Environment International in 2021] that [found] 785,000 people die per year from overwork and burnout due to heart disease and stroke, and that was for individuals who worked more than 55 hours per week. I would assume that CFOs fall into that category. And so, there are physical health implications as well as mental health implications, like increased stress, which can trigger or exacerbate depression, anxiety, substance use disorder, because a lot of times we self-medicate our anxiety, depression, or stress with drugs or alcohol.

I think another really important point to note is that the two greatest stressors for people today, especially millennials and Gen Zers, are the economy and money stress. And so, CFOs are dealing with that on a daily basis with their employees.

News built for finance pros

CFO Brew helps finance pros navigate their roles with insights into risk management, compliance, and strategy through our newsletter, virtual events, and digital guides.

Post-pandemic, with many still working remotely, what challenges do you see people facing with isolation and loneliness?

It has definitely exacerbated the loneliness epidemic, and the way that mental health works, the higher our stressors are, the more support and access to community we need, and the more self-care we need. What’s happened is our stressors have gone way up, and we’ve had less time for self-care because many of us are overworking, and then we’ve had less access to support because we’re not in our usual office environments. We’re not commuting and seeing people on our way to work and back, or many of us quit our gym memberships or aren’t involved in the community in ways that we were pre-pandemic. When we are isolated, that worsens mental health conditions like depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, eating disorders, addiction, substance misuse, etc.

What are some ways an organization can champion good mental health?

Number one [is] having an employee assistance program or EAP benefit, and promoting that benefit. [Another way is] making sure that your healthcare has a strong mental health plan, and thanks to mental health parity law, therapy and counseling is covered the same as major medical [benefits]. And then, one of the challenges is transcending stigma. Even when companies have an EAP plan…it’s grossly underused because, I think, many employees worry about confidentiality—that their boss is going to know that they’ve called—and so companies really need to do robust mental health in the workplace training.

News built for finance pros

CFO Brew helps finance pros navigate their roles with insights into risk management, compliance, and strategy through our newsletter, virtual events, and digital guides.