What tax preparers and their firms can do to plan for more manageable and less stressful tax seasons
Tax season is a stressful time of year for anyone who works at an accounting firm. Burnout is commonplace and sometimes it’s hard to get back into the swing of things when the busy season dies down.
From the time tax season starts to when it ends, many professionals find they’re burning the candle at both ends, missing valuable time with their families, and giving their all to their clients.
Even with a tax deadline looming, clients don’t always communicate or submit information promptly. This puts added pressure on accounting professionals to chase clients down, which takes valuable time and energy away from the responsibilities they were hired for.
All this results in is added pressure for accountants and tax professionals, and it makes it much harder for them to get all their work done on time.
The post-tax season is a good time for accounting professionals to think about their own mental well-being after such a busy period.
Burnout’s effect on tax and accounting professionals
Burnout is no joke. It brings a range of physical and mental symptoms such as chronic fatigue, insomnia, irritability, depression, anxiety, headaches, stomachaches, and more.
At some point, most people experience burnout due to work stress, and for tax and accounting professionals, April’s tax deadline can be a major trigger. The lead-up to the deadline can become one big juggling act for many accounting professionals who must balance work and home life with a looming deadline and all the pressure that comes with the tax season.
Ways to recover and avoid burnout next tax season
Remember a tax preparer’s work is valuable
As stressful as the tax season is, remember that what you’re doing is important work that’s highly appreciated by your clients, colleagues, and your boss.
It’s easy to lose sight of why you’re doing the job you do when things get busy. But accounting is a fundamental part of a business. It helps everything run smoothly on the finance side and ensures that every company you deal with is paying the correct taxes.
Take some time to remember and reflect on why you love your job and how your role helps others.
Use the offseason to take time away
There are few better ways to recover from burnout than taking some time off. While that may have been impossible in April, the summer is an ideal time to take a break away from the office.
When you take time off, be sure to switch off any work email or text notifications. You need to shut out work as much as possible if you want to truly relax and recharge.
Reflect on this year’s busy tax season to avoid burnout next season
What have you learned this tax season that you can apply to next year? It’s tempting to move on from April 15th as quickly as possible, but before you shut it out of your mind, take time to reflect on what you and your team could have done differently.
You might want to rethink the way you manage emails, respond to client calls, juggle who works late and how often, and so on. If one of the issues this year was slow client communication, come up with a plan to regularly chase clients earlier for the information your team needs.
This will help you build a plan of action to make next year’s tax season a little more manageable.
Keep an open dialogue to support tax preparers and the rest of the team
Communication is key to working together more effectively and can help to reduce the likelihood of burnout. Most people in your team will have experienced some stress during tax season, some more than others. But if burnout and stress are unspoken secrets in your team, there’s a good chance that no one’s getting the support they need.
Instead, keep a dialogue open with your manager and the rest of your team about workloads, time off, and support for stress. If your manager doesn’t already, encourage them to check in with their team to see how they’re doing. That way, the team can work together to come up with ways to reduce workloads, streamline processes, and help everyone reduce stress in the process.
Making physical health a priority reduces stress
Taking care of your mental well-being is just one part of reducing stress. You also need to take care of yourself physically as well.
When we’re stressed, many of us will turn to unhealthy processed foods or takeout for convenience. Stress-induced fatigue also makes regular exercise a struggle for many.
To help reduce stress, make your physical health a priority. Find time to exercise regularly and try to switch out unhealthy foods for whole foods instead. Google quick and easy healthy recipes to keep things simple.
Optimize accounting systems and processes with new technology
One way to deal with stress as a team is to streamline work processes and technology is key to that. Technology has come a long way in helping accounting professionals avoid the more tedious and time-consuming tasks.
Any technology that helps you automate your workflow is a plus for the whole team. Most people do more than they really need to do, and while that doesn’t sound like a bad thing, it can lead to burnout which is bad news for you and your team.
Accounting software and tax tools are a great way to automate, reduce manual tasks (and errors), and streamline the workflow for the entire team.
Leverage technology such as UltraTax or Checkpoint Edge to take some of the heavy lifting from your accounting duties. UltraTax helps to optimize workflow for tax preparers and accountants, and Checkpoint Edge is a powerful accounting research tool to help firms get the guidance they need fast.
Be proactive—not reactive—in your approach to tackling burnout
Burnout is a silent problem across many accounting firms. When teams don’t talk about stress and burnout, it can lead everyone to feel like they’re dealing with it alone. Be proactive in your approach to dealing with burnout and set your firm up for better tax seasons in the future.
By taking steps to get ahead of burnout before it sets in, you can shield your team from some of the most severe challenges of the busy tax season. Use some of these strategies to create the most productive atmosphere possible for your team.