Businesses Can’t Afford These Levels of CFO Burnout

by Didi Gurfinkel

If CFOs are struggling, so will the entire business, which increasingly relies on the CFO to lead strategy and change.

©lakshmiprasad S/iStock/Getty Images Plus

CFOs today are exhausted. Their wellbeing is low, their family relationships are suffering, and ultimately their work productivity is taking a serious hit. To learn more about this issue, my team recently conducted a survey of 200 CFOs across multiple verticals, and what we saw was extremely eye-opening.

The extent of this burnout is certainly alarming when it comes to individual CFOs’ physical and mental health, but the implications don’t end there. If CFOs are struggling, so will the entire business, which increasingly relies on the CFO to lead strategy and change.

At a time when companies are still navigating digital transformation, employees are quitting in droves, value chains haven’t recovered from the pandemic, and the war in Ukraine is reshaping markets on a daily basis, CFO leadership is more important than ever.

The primary cause of CFO exhaustion? The burden of manual work processes. According to our respondents, 41% of Financial Planning and Analysis (FP&A) processes are manual, absorbing approximately ten hours a week of skilled financial talent, including many CFO work hours.

If that much of your time is dedicated to manual tasks, you’ll inevitably have less to spare for advanced analysis and deeper insights. CFOs say that manual work is holding back from participating in strategic decision-making (47%), as well as fulfilling their roles as strategic business partners (52%).

CFOs in general are so caught up with manual work, they’re hard pressed to spare the time for deeper analysis, leading change, and identifying opportunities to boost revenue and improve processes, which has a clear effect on any business’s ability to innovate and grow.

Businesses are paying the price

As the core, fundamental process of gathering and verifying data used in reports, forecasts, and budgets, FP&A is the basis for all business decision-making. But FP&A work takes so much time and effort to complete that adding value for the business is being neglected.

Consider some of the findings. Finance teams spend an average of 14 hours each month preparing ad hoc reports and visuals, and it takes up to three months for 78% of companies to prepare their budgets. It’s not surprising that 92% of CFOs are frustrated. As a CFO, you were appointed to spearhead high level, strategic changes, but you can’t do that when FP&A is such a time suck.

In a fast-moving business world, the time it takes to manage these manual tasks risks making the data irrelevant by the time it’s presented. One of the top issues that would improve if CFOs could cut manual work is real time reporting, which would make data far more accurate and reliable, and the reports themselves more impactful and valued by other stakeholders. 

It’s disheartening to discover that only 20% of CFOs think their FP&A has any impact on top-line growth, while 28% say this work has little budget impact. That’s probably because it takes so long to carry out these tasks that by the time the reports are completed, they aren’t seen as relevant.

Improving CFO wellbeing, leadership and data reliability

Cutting down on the burden of manual labor at work would take a load off for CFOs, who would find more time for family and friends, would enjoy their jobs more and feel more satisfaction. Improved work-life balance would flow directly into increased CFO engagement and more productivity, creativity, and innovation.

The organization would benefit directly from a financial leadership that is more present, more focused, better able to communicate, and armed with more up to date reports.

CFOs say that with fewer manual tasks to perform, they’d be more involved in strategic decision-making, serve as better business partners, and deliver better analysis and communication.

Shifting away from manual data collection would result in more accurate and up to date reports for use as the basis for business decision-making. Respondents say that tracking down and correcting errors is the primary issue sucking up work hours, and stress over the risk of errors adds to the CFO burden.

Reading between the lines, it’s easy to see how errors creep in to manually compiled data. C-suite leaders can’t help but know it, which makes them low on confidence in their own reports and puts CFOs constantly on the back foot.

The cost of dysfunction

The economic cost of such energy-sapping processes for businesses is outsized. In fact, dysfunctional and error-prone manual financial reporting processes, as voiced by CFOs, are set to cost US businesses $7.8 billion in 2022.

CFOs are slowly realizing things have to change. A third of companies have employed technological solutions post COVID-19, while a fifth increased the frequency of their forecasting to keep up the volatility and uncertainty surrounding the pandemic.

It’s clear that things have reached the point where CFOs owe it to themselves – and the business – to take action.

Elevating CFOs raises the whole business

While FP&A processes are still largely manual, CFOs can’t fulfill their personal work goals and achieve the productivity they hope for, and businesses miss out on reliable reports and strategic financial guidance. Finding ways to introduce automation and help finance teams over their manual work hurdle should be a priority for CFOs and business leaders everywhere.

Didi Gurfinkel is the Co-Founder and CEO of DataRails.