Tax season is unequivocally the busiest time for all finance professionals, including accountants, bookkeepers, CPAs and Enrolled Agents. In addition to last year’s COVID-19 precautions, this year the IRS has announced that it will delay tax filing to February 12, 2021. The tax community continues to display its resilience and adaptability to change. However, these factors can increase anxiety during an already stressful tax season. Additional stress, increasing workloads, or a looming April 15th deadline can individually take a toll on anyone. These factors in combination can lead to higher chances of tax season burnout. Follow these seven tips to be proactive and prevent tax season burnout among you and your staff.
Set Up Your Workspace
There are advantages and disadvantages to working remotely, as many accounting firms opting to do so this season are discovering. Sure, it’s nice to avoid rush hour and be able to answer emails in your pajamas. However, it may be hard to distinguish between home life and work, since you’re technically working in the same space. A dedicated workspace can help draw the line. It would be best to choose a location where you can close the door. Or, consider a location that doesn’t typically involve leisure time, such as the dining room.
Wherever your office may be, distractions can come in all forms. For example, you receive social media notifications, emails or an eleventh-hour request for a document from a client. Constantly switching between work and distractions can hinder your productivity and extend the workday. Instead, try creative solutions such as answering emails at pre-determined times of the day. Log out of your social media applications, so they are not readily available, and you enter your credentials whenever you want to log in. You can ask yourself if you really should be spending time scrolling through your feeds instead of focusing on your tasks.
Even though you want to minimize distractions, it is also important to schedule frequent breaks. If you were in the office, you’d probably take a lunch break instead of stopping at the refrigerator in between tasks. Stick to that traditional workday schedule and mentality to keep your energy consistent throughout the day. Consider blocking off your calendar and adding buffers to the end of your meetings as a quick break.
It is also important to take mental breaks, especially during tax season, where you’ll have long days and longer evenings. Plan to fully disconnect a few times a day. Leave your electronics in another room so you don’t have the urge to check notifications or answer calls. Practice self-care and ensure that break time is about you. Focus on what you really need instead of what others need from you.
Organize and Prioritize Tasks
The number of tasks needing to be completed during tax season are often overwhelming. It may seem that as much as you work, you are not making a dent into your workload. Instead, create a to-do list every day of tasks you need to accomplish. You may have a thousand tasks to complete, but keep the daily list specific and realistic to what you can actually achieve in a day. Doing so allows you to break down your workload into manageable pieces.
Once you have your list of tasks you wish to accomplish, be sure to go back and prioritize. Of course, you will want to prioritize the tasks by importance. But, also consider prioritizing based on your working style and schedule. For example, if you are more productive in the morning, schedule a task that requires more focus and attention after your first cup of coffee. Focusing your energy during a specific time in the day can help with your productivity.
As you complete your tasks and cross them off your list, take time to notice the sense of accomplishment and progress. This positive reinforcement will motivate you to continue moving forward instead of feeling overwhelmed.
Focus on You and Your Team
Try to remind yourself that we are in the middle of a pandemic. Each employee has a unique battle they may be dealing with behind closed doors. From homeschooling and childcare to the lack of daily social connection, ensure you’re taking time to genuinely connect with your team. Build a culture to talk about anything else other than work. At Qbox, we start our meetings with our dogs joining our Zoom calls. Sharing a common interest and engaging water cooler chat is a great way to increase our engagement, just like in the office.
Take a Walk
Exercise can help improve your mood and decrease feelings of stress or anxiety. Try to incorporate a walk into your daily schedule. It doesn’t have to be a workout. Just get out of the office for 5 to 20 minutes. Leave your electronics behind and allow yourself to take in nature, the neighborhood or anything other than work. Reset your mind outside so that when you are back in the office, you can be more productive.
Even when implementing the above tips, burnout can happen at any time. Be aware of the red flags such as irritability, cynicism or a decline in productivity. If a task that previously took you 15 minutes now takes an hour, pause and evaluate. The earlier you recognize burnout, the earlier you can take action to help your staff get the support they really need. In the long run, taking care of your employees improves your work environment and employee retention rates.