9 Sanity-Saving Tips to Power Through Accounting Busy Season
Though tax time is accounting’s busy season, that doesn’t mean you have to forgo any semblance of sanity until the end of April.
As firms prepare to put in 50+ hours of work each week from now until the tax deadline has passed, it is possible to maintain a delicate balance that will keep your team productive without causing exhaustion and burnout.
On Jetpack Workflow’s Growing Your Firm podcast, we spoke with seasoned industry veterans who share their expert tips for navigating the busy season like pros, such as:
- Expanding your team with non-CPA hires
- Letting employees be more flexible with their schedules
- Using incentives to keep morale high
- Creating an open feedback loop between yourself and your staff
Here are the top tips we compiled to help you successfully manage another accounting busy season without burning out.
1. Hire a Project Coordinator
Let your revenue-driving staff focus on billable work this busy season by hiring a project coordinator, a standard position in law firms, to handle the extra administrative tasks.
Vincent Porter, president and CEO of Porter & Company, CPAs, recently divulged that employing a project coordinator is one of his secrets for staying sane as the tax deadline approaches.
He explains that a project coordinator “…coordinates work coming into the office, makes sure all the documents our CPAs need are there, chases our clients down for more information if needed, and follows up with them for further work.”
A project coordinator also acts as an accessible point of contact for your clients since they aren’t as bogged down as the rest of your team members might be this time of year.
Put it into practice: Consult with your accountants to see which non-billable tasks take up the most time, and establish the project coordinator’s workflows around their feedback to help ease the team’s increased workload.
2. Implement More Flexible Time
Rather than making Saturdays mandatory until April 15th, as some public accounting firms do, give employees the option for more flexibility in their schedules.
During the accounting busy season, tax accountants know it’s crunch time, so you don’t need to plan each of their days down to the minute.
Trust your team to get their work done on time, and help them avoid burnout by not keeping them in the office from sunup to sun down, six days a week.
Put it into practice: Help your team maintain a work-life balance even during the busy season by offering the option to work remotely on certain days and set their own work hours as long as they meet deadlines.
3. Use Tax Workflow Templates
When you’re in the thick of the busy season and wishing there were more hours in the day to get tasks done, using tax workflow templates and checklists can be a lifesaver.
These helpful resources allow you to streamline and standardize repetitive tasks. They eliminate the guesswork and add time to your team’s days so they can get through other billable work.
Put it into practice: You can create your own checklists and spreadsheet templates or simply download our 32 free workflow templates, with many designed to help simplify your firm’s processes for tax-related workflows.
4. Create “Catch-Up” Days
At certain points, the non stop flow of incoming emails, calls, meetings, and client requests may undermine your staff’s ability to complete billable work. Implementing “catch-up” days lets your team come up for air and work completely unbothered.
On those days, accounting professionals can simply catch up on any work they need to complete with no obligation to respond to their managers, clients, or colleagues until the next day.
Put it into practice: Give your team the option to schedule 1–2 days per month as their “catch-up” days. Send reminders to managers ahead of time so your staff can work distraction-free on those days.
5. Keep Morale High with Fun Activities
Just because it’s the busy season doesn’t mean it has to be all work and no play from January through April.
This time of year can be a grind, so providing regular incentives gives your staff something to look forward to and breaks up the monotony of the tax filing season.
Each year, Porter creates a “tax season calendar,” scheduling one or two items weekly to help release the stress of working 12-hour days. Here are a few activities Porter includes on his calendar:
- A “survival day,” providing each staff member with their favorite snacks
- A day when everyone has to tell a joke at staff huddles
- Letting staff wear their favorite sports team’s jersey on the Friday before the Super Bowl
Put it into practice: Create your own fun-filled calendar for the first few months of the year, specific to your staff’s interests. Keep it light and simple to help recharge your staff without distracting them from work.
6. Send Personalized Feedback to Your Staff
Staff appreciation can go a long way when your team puts in long hours during each year’s first quarter. At a time when their inbox may be overflowing with stressful messages, a thoughtful and unexpected note could help them power through the rest of the week.
You don’t have to go overboard with praise.
However, taking the time out of your week to send positive feedback helps your team know their hard work has not gone unnoticed.
Put it into practice: Send a personalized email or Slack message to staff members each week recognizing their efforts. You can get creative and incorporate jokes, gifs, or memes to help keep morale up.
7. Make Things More Convenient for Your Team
As your team potentially spends 11+ hour days in the office, go the extra mile to support them by doing things that might make their days a bit easier and free up some of their time.
On a recent podcast episode, Jetpack Workflow founder and CEO David Cristello shares this suggestion as one of the tips and tactics he’s gleaned over the years from firm owners:
“During the busy season, invest in more conveniences in your life. Anything that can save you a couple of minutes a day or a couple of hours a week is a really great investment.”
(David details his ideas on this topic in the “Put it into practice” section below.)
Work can be hectic enough during the busy season, so sprinkling some added convenience into your team’s lives when possible can help minimize overall stress levels during this busy time of year.
Put it into practice: Get feedback from your staff on the typical routines or responsibilities in their personal lives that get left by the wayside during the busy season. Based on their input, you can implement certain perks or freebies to help out, such as:
- Vouchers for meal prep or home services
- In-office/remote catered lunch
- On-site wellness/self-care activities like fitness or yoga classes once a week
8. Check In with Your Employees
Even if everything appears to be running smoothly and your staff is hitting all their deadlines, they could be working at an unsustainable pace that could end in burnout and other issues.
Be sure your employees feel heard by scheduling check-ins as the busy season progresses.
Use this meeting as a chance for your employees to share any issues or frustrations they may be dealing with.
This way, you can adjust their workload or schedule as needed so they can deliver better work.
Put it into practice: Schedule one or two informal meetings or formal one-on-one lunches with employees throughout the busy season where they can share their feedback. Doing so lets you offer proactive solutions instead of possibly having to react to staff issues when tax season ends.
9. Join Some Accounting Facebook Groups
Remember, the entire accounting world is going through the busy season simultaneously, so you’re not in this alone.
Other firm owners understand the struggle firsthand and have created online communities, sharing war stories and providing tips for getting through the busy season.
Several Facebook groups are dedicated to CPAs and tax preparers during the busy season, including the Accounting Firm Influencers group, run by CPA Jackie Meyer. It has 7,000 members and multiple daily posts to help you navigate this hectic time of year.
Put it into practice: Join online communities or Facebook groups where you can ask specific questions and get practical advice from firm owners who have been in your shoes. Return the favor by providing tips or suggestions to group members when you can.
One Thing to Do Immediately After Busy Season
Once the rush of the busy season is over, regroup and recharge by taking a few days off, enjoying a week-long vacation, catching up on sleep, or reconnecting with friends and family.
Then, make sure to contact your clients. On a recent episode of the Growing Your Firm podcast, Cristello clearly states, “Do not waste the opportunity to start client conversations right after this critical period ends.”
For clients that didn’t have their best tax year, you might want to suggest advisory services so their tax return is more favorable next year.
On the other hand, clients who did have a good experience might be open to purchasing more services from your firm.
Either way, connecting with your clients shortly after tax season ends allows you to continue offering them value throughout the year.
Keep your team focused, reducing hours of manual work, and keep track of client work with strong accounting workflows. Learn why Jetpack Workflow is critical to your client work during your busy season and beyond.