Accounting firms’ busy season involves long hours, impatient clients and seemingly insurmountable expectations that last for weeks on end. With so much stress and pressure during this time, it’s no wonder then that teams can become demotivated, unproductive, and in many cases, burned out. It can be very difficult to support your team and prevent burnout during such a busy time. But here is everything you need to know to be able to do it (whilst also keeping your own sanity in the process!).
6 ways to prevent staff burnout during accounting busy season
Make your health a priority
Before you can help your team members manage their stress, you need to manage your own. A good starting point is to take care of your physical and mental health. Eat healthy, wholesome food and exercise regularly. Get plenty of sleep each night, try meditating or find someone to vent to.
I know it is easier said than done, but taking time for your health is not indulgent, it is self-preservation. How can you manage a team if you’re completely depleted and burned out yourself?
Approach stress and self-care as a team
During the accounting firm’s busy season, it would benefit your team greatly if you shared your tension-management techniques with them. It is worth discussing and you could even suggest tackling self-care as a team. Do this even if you can or can’t completely manage your stress. This will help each other cope and hold each other accountable.
Could your team benefit from two daily 10 minute sessions of meditation? Would making a healthy meal plan every week and eating together every day make a big difference? Maybe going for a walk together at lunch or starting the day with a yoga class will reduce stress?
Help your team strategise and prioritise
Creating a work calendar for yourself and your team will not help you stay organised. Doing this will also help with preventing burnout too.
Start with encouraging your team members to make daily checklists where they list 3 big items that they need to get ticked off. The simple act of physically ticking jobs off has an invigorating psychological effect which will have a big impact on productivity. Then, make sure to meet up with your team members regularly to help them strategise and prioritise.
What jobs are actually a priority (i.e they need to get done today)? How can you help them regularly set team and client expectations to reduce pressure? Do they need you to negotiate with other departments to extend deadlines on less urgent items?
Use the carrot more than the stick
Burnout can often feel like a personal failing. It can result in your team being extremely hard on themselves and therefore the work that they are doing. Make sure to demonstrate compassion and express your gratitude as much as possible during this period. This will avoid burnout during accounting firms' busy season.
There are different ways to do this. You can simply say thank you, give them an extra day off or a monetary bonus, or tell someone else in front of them about their good work. You can also send them an email or handwritten note about how you appreciate their work. Do this even when your team simply does their job or completes a certain task that week. This will make them feel that they are a valuable member of the team. You will see that this can go a really long way when it comes to their happiness and productivity.
Don’t forget to celebrate team successes too, no matter how small!
Lead by example
During accounting firms' busy season, there are times that you are stressed and don’t have time for your team. There are also moments when you are sending them emails at midnight. But think about what message this is sending to them? It is encouraging them to work as you do, sacrificing their work-life balance. Eventually, this will have a negative impact on their physical and mental health.
As the person leading your team, you have the power to influence them positively. Model good coping behaviours yourself. Join the stress management group activities with your team. Make downtime a priority for everyone by setting boundaries and encouraging them to take breaks. You’ll soon see that they will appreciate and respect you for this and will be eager to jump in and work hard just as you do.
Develop a shared sense of why
Burnout can make your team feel lost, dissociated from the company, and feeling like the work that they do has no value. It is your job then to remind them of their ‘why.’ Talk to them personally to discover why they do what they do and what drives them every day. This is useful not only to motivate them but to also help you delegate work to your team based on passions and strengths.
Once you have talked about their individual why, develop a shared sense of why as a team. Focus on the business mission, help them understand why they are being asked to work harder and why what they do matters. This will help them feel a part of the bigger cause and they will feel much more positive about their work.
Prevent your team (and yourself) from burnout during accounting firms busy season
Accounting firms’ busy season can be brutal. But if you take care of yourself and lead by example, your leadership will give strength, enthusiasm, and determination to your team members.
To survive the accounting firms busy season, you need to support your team to prevent them from burning out. So, put self-care first. Make them feel good by being optimistic and creating a positive environment. Help reduce pressure and stress by strategising, prioritising, delegating, and advocating for your team. Encourage them to make their health and well-being a priority. By doing so, you'll soon see an increase in productivity and quality of work without the burnout!