5 tips to manage stress during busy season.
|1. Make a personal stress inventory
|2. Automate what you can
|3. Delegate or outsource where you can
|4. Schedule downtime – and don’t skip it
|5. Take advantage of wellness benefits
The numbers are in, and they reinforce the mental health challenges facing accountants. Nearly 9 in 10 accountants want a better work-life balance, while just over 70 percent would like more help from their organizations to manage mental health, according to ACCA’s Global Trends Survey 2023.
Long hours and heavy workloads are nothing new for many accounting professionals. The high levels of stress associated with accounting careers may help to explain why fewer students are entering the industry and more professionals are leaving it, trends supported by data from the AICPA and the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Stress management for tax professionals is critical for avoiding burnout. Here are some tips for helping accountants to reduce and manage stress:
1. Make a personal stress inventory
Managing stress as an accountant begins with understanding what’s triggering it and how stress levels ebb and flow on a daily, weekly, monthly, or yearly basis.
For example, ask yourself if any of these scenarios sound familiar.
- Shifting deadlines. You’re tasked with doing a full audit for one of your firm’s biggest clients and are told you’ll have 60 days to complete it. One month in, your manager tells you the client wants the results within the next 10 business days, leaving you scrambling to wrap it up.
- Extended hours. It’s tax season and instead of a five-day workweek, your firm expects you to be in the office on Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. That coincides with your son or daughter’s soccer games, throwing your work-life balance into disarray.
- Poor management. Your manager assigns you to head up a team project with three of your coworkers that involves analyzing client data for errors, but the instructions are vague. You end up steering the project as best you can while worrying about the outcome the entire time.
- Unreasonable workload. One of your colleagues needs major surgery and is expected to be out of work recuperating for two months. While you’re completely understanding about their need for time off, you’re dreading the inevitable email from your manager telling you that you’ll need to pick up a third of their workload in the meantime.
Your personal stressors may be entirely different but these are all examples of the challenges accountants face. The better you understand what’s likely to result in increased stress, the easier it becomes to implement changes.
For example, if you feel overworked it may be necessary to focus on setting boundaries. Or if you experience peak stress levels during tax season, you can start prepping early to develop some coping mechanism that will allow you to maintain balance once it gets underway.
2. Automate what you can
Embracing automation can help to simplify a lot of what you do as a tax professional and reduce some of the stress that goes along with trying to complete a seemingly endless to-do list. Some of the tasks that you can streamline using software applications and tech tools include:
- New client onboarding
- Accounting and payroll
- Tax filing deadlines
- Document management
- Compliance monitoring
Automation allows firms to streamline operations, reducing wasted time and stress for employees. Investing in technology may also prove critical for accounting firms’ long-term survival and profitability as new innovations change the way everything from basic record-keeping to regulatory compliance is handled.
3. Delegate or outsource where you can
Going it alone, especially during tax season, makes it more likely that something — or multiple tasks — could fall through the cracks. Delegating and outsourcing can help you avoid that scenario and the stress that can result from trying to fit in just one more thing on your to-do list.
Consider everything that you do on a typical day during tax season and the rest of the year. Keeping a time log for one to two weeks can provide a better idea of your actual workload. Once you have tallied your responsibilities, go through the list and rank them by importance on a scale of one to five, with one for the most important and five for the least important.
Next, review the items marked as four or five and ask yourself if they’re things that you could hand off. If the answer is yes, see if you can assign them to a junior accountant or another member of your staff, or if you need to consider hiring additional or seasonal workers, contracting with a third-party vendor, or automating the tasks.
4. Schedule downtime — and don’t skip it
Carving out time for yourself may feel impossible, particularly when you’re in the midst of a hectic tax season. However, making time for breaks can prove essential for managing stress as an accountant.
You can start with small breaks as part of your daily routine. A 15-minute break in the morning and another one in the afternoon allows you to grab a coffee, meditate or do some deep breathing, or take a quick walk to refocus and recharge.
You can also incorporate longer breaks into your schedule. For example, you might set aside time on the weekend to focus on personal development, hobbies, or activities with family and friends. If your company offers vacation time after tax season, take it. And set a personal rule that you won’t default to answering emails or taking phone calls during your time off.
5. Take advantage of wellness benefits
Along with increasing salaries, more accounting firms are introducing wellness programs to encourage employee retention. Wellness programs for accounting professionals are designed to help them better manage the types of stress they’re most likely to encounter on the job.
Accounting employee wellness programs may include:
- Free access to confidential counseling or referrals
- In-home treatment services
- Mental health education
- Access to well-being apps and online tools
While you may not feel comfortable discussing your stress with your boss or coworkers, you may use wellness programs to connect with people who can listen in a judgment-free way. And should you need additional professional help, you can access it while maintaining privacy and confidentiality.
Stress management for accountants matters
Constant stress can take a toll on mental — and physical — health. By taking proactive steps for stress management, you can strive for your best at work and at home.
Get ahead of the competition by changing your tax software to give your clients the best service possible.
How AI can empower tax professionals to enhance their work-life and well-being.