Working as an accountant is undoubtedly a rewarding experience, but it’s not without its challenges, especially during the height of tax season.
Whether it’s the 24/7 workload or the demand for immediate answers, expectations during this time of year are particularly stressful and increasingly complex. Couple these pressures with a constant stream of tax law changes and legislative updates and you’ve got a recipe for burnout.
To cope, it may be time to re-evaluate your internal work processes to ensure they are competitive and take full advantage of the tools available to you. From streamlining processes to communicating with clients to firm management, here are five steps to de-stress accounting this tax season and beyond.
1. Learn your tools inside and out.
With today’s tax technology, there are many ways firms with limited resources and staff can utilize software to drive efficiencies and eliminate the stress associated with manual compliance work. Tax software can automate tasks, increase accuracy, and optimize tax workflow so you can do more in less time, which comes in handy during tax season.
Most accounting firms use software applications on a daily basis—from providing client service to tracking prospects to keeping track of changing legislation and much more. A single, integrated practice management solution that integrates tax compliance, accounting, payroll, audit, CRM, email, document management, and tax research can help you de-stress accounting by better managing your day-to-day work.
Plus, with cloud-based solutions that enable remote accessibility, you and your staff can check the status of projects in real-time and address client inquiries quickly and accurately, no matter where you are.
To make the most of your software tools, consider establishing a technology champion (if you’re not one already!) to take accountability for updates, training, and document best practices for your firm.
2. Don’t be afraid to delegate.
By delegating tasks during tax season (and beyond), you can free up your time to focus on higher-value activities—like advisory services—and keep your staff engaged by providing greater autonomy.
- Are you handling tasks that another staff member is equipped to complete?
- Would assigning the task to someone else gives them the knowledge that could bolster their career?
Play to the strengths of your staff members and assign them work that not only lightens your load but helps them develop professionally.
Remember: Don’t micromanage. Keep the lines of communication open. If a staff member tries and fails, use it as a learning experience. By encouraging growth and new challenges, you’ll keep your staff motivated and engaged, which benefits the entire firm.
3. Schedule focus hours and personal time.
Early in your career, you likely gauged your performance on the completion of specific tasks. As you progress in your professional journey, it’s time to shift your mindset to big-picture strategy and income-generating activities. It’s all about being intentional and protecting your time.
Proactively document the milestones or goals you want to achieve ahead of the personal time you schedule for yourself. By planning ahead, you can focus on the work that supports the vision you have for your firm—and rest assured that you have built-in time for family, friends, or whatever activities refresh your outlook.
4. Identify stressors and cut them out.
You can identify stressors and cut them out by taking a critical look at your client base and your operations—including what’s working and what isn’t.
From a workflow perspective, technology can help alleviate the stress of manual work while boosting efficiency. It also opens the doors to shifting to an advisory business model, which includes eliminating billable hours and moving to value pricing. This changes the dynamic of the client relationship and lays out a clear scope of engagement. For an accountant, not having to wrestle mentally with billable hours can alleviate stress.
When it comes to staff and clients, focus on ways you can strengthen working relationships. By involving your staff in decision-making, you can boost their energy and engagement. From a client perspective, ask them what is working well and how you can better meet their needs.
In addition, if you find yourself in a dysfunctional client or staff relationship, it may be time to move on. Hard as it may be, acknowledging the disconnect is the first step to alleviating the stress surrounding it.
5. Prioritize your mental health.
There is no question that investing in your mental health and well-being (and that of your staff) benefits the entire firm—especially during the busy months of tax season.
Checking in with staff and clients to offer words of support and encouragement during busy or stressful times can strengthen relationships and build community. You likely have long-standing relationships with clients and staff over many years. Reinforcing these relationships is mutually beneficial from a mental health perspective.
Further, encouraging work-life balance can boost engagement and job satisfaction, so consider using technology to enable flexible work schedules for you and your staff.
Tax season comes along faster every year and with it, a new wave of stressors. To de-stress accounting and stay ahead of the game, accountants need to keep their toolboxes stocked with practical strategies that allow them to de-stress their work and perform at a high level.
For those willing to put in the effort, the idea of a manageable tax season does not have to seem like an impossible task amidst all the demands of this profession – it just takes some thoughtful reflection and preparation instead!
To learn more about handling change, avoiding burnout, and how to streamline your accounting processes, follow along with our Advisory Services blog series or check out our OnDemand webinar “Be the Champion of Change in your firm“