Ever since humans realized they could grow food during certain times of the year, seasonal work has been a staple of civilization. Accounting is one of the many professions where work can happen seasonally, meaning some parts of the calendar are busier than others. For accounting firms, these seasons tend to fall in line with the busiest times for their clients.
For example, accountants who work with federal government clients know that the government’s fiscal year ends September 30, a time that’s typically busy for those who work in federal contracting. The time periods just before and after this date often come with a lot of requests for accounting firms working with federal contractors.
This can cause some challenges for accounting firms working with other seasonal businesses since things can feel overwhelming or out of control when things are particularly busy. But in today’s wellness-forward, widely distributed workplaces, it’s more important than ever before to stay balanced and healthy with your work.
The importance of a well-balanced schedule
A number of research studies have shown that not only is sitting linked to physical issues like back pain and vascular problems, working for excessively long hours isn’t worth the toll it takes on health – especially since the work done after a certain period of time isn’t as productive as it is at the beginning of the work session.
So how do you go about achieving a balanced approach to both work and personal life during the time when it seems like you have round-the-clock needs from your clients? It can vary depending on the size of your firm and the specific kinds of clients you have, but we’ve found the tips below to be helpful:
Eliminate time between tasks
In many situations, work or personal things to get done are preceded by a setup or transition time. A common example: Before the huge rise of remote work over the last few years, many people had to drive or take public transportation to get to an office where they could handle professional responsibilities. Another common example is driving to a gym for a workout.
While these tasks alone might seem small, the collective impact of removing small amounts of transition time between tasks can be a huge boon for your schedule and help you feel less stressed and rushed during critical parts of your day. One single period of time – especially the morning – can set the tone for an entire day, so feeling less rushed and anxious during these time periods can have a massive trickle-down effect.
Create a supportive workplace culture
Most accounting firms involve different people working collectively to finish tasks for clients. When things get particularly busy, it’s hard on everyone – but different people handle the stress of the busy season in different ways.
As an employer, whether your team is a small group of contractors or dozens of full-time accounting professionals located in different parts of the world, you still need to take steps to ensure your workplace culture prioritizes balance and offers support for team members who may be having trouble with a sudden increase in workload. Sometimes it can be as simple as taking a few minutes to listen to someone vent or sending out a team-wide email expressing gratitude for their hard work.
You should also recognize good performance and encourage team members to take breaks and do things to take care of themselves. There are lots of stereotypes and outdated mindsets about the profession that still permeate some offices, but these are changing in the post-COVID world when people value flexibility above all. According to research from Forbes, 90% of U.S. adults currently employed rated “work-life balance” as an important element of their work – it was listed more frequently than other important elements like “an easy commute,” and “a path to promotion.” If your firm isn’t supportive of your team when they need it most during busy seasons, it’ll be tough to reduce turnover in the long run.
Use software to handle multiple things at once
Technology has promised to make many elements of our lives easier, including accounting work. But too many firms we speak to face a significant obstacle to great efficiency through technology: the amount of time they spend switching between different apps and software tools to accomplish the things they need to get done. Many of these apps aren’t compatible with one another and often use completely different file types or communication channels.
During normal work times, it may be more acceptable for your team to spend a little more time than needed on client tasks. But during your busiest time of year, when you are trying to squeeze as much as possible out of your firm’s resources, even saving a few minutes here and there can be a significant improvement.
That’s why an integrated accounting practice management software solution can be so valuable. With just a single platform, you can handle an array of important tasks like sending out project updates, tracking your team members’ time, and generating forms from a template with the click of a button. The time and energy savings derived from this kind of application are valuable at any time, but especially when things are busy.
Above all, remember that achieving balance as an accounting firm isn’t easy. It will take a consistent, focused effort from you and your team, as well as effective communication with clients and partners. Over time, you should be able to settle into a routine that helps you manage even the busiest segments of the calendar.