4 min read

Effective firm strategies for tax season happiness


Unlimited vacation. Four-day work weeks. Remote work arrangements. The phenomenon of work-life balance has persisted for years now, with no sign of letting up. For the most part, the result has been good. Workers have reported being happier than ever, largely thanks to the perks and arrangements I just mentioned, plus many more.

Intervening factors complicate the picture, however: while productivity has been trending upward overall since 2017 (with the obvious big dips during the pandemic), several recent quarters have seen it take hits, raising fears for some that worker happiness is coming at the cost of productivity. Others point out that worker compensation has lagged productivity immensely since 1979, and suggest this is a more likely reason for any productivity issues.

In accounting firms around the country, preparations are underway for the profession’s famously fast-paced and fraught tax busy season. It’s under the pressure of this stressful time that many of a firm’s human resource issues begin to show. Whether that results in inconvenient, but manageable hiccups like increased illness, or the terrifyingly devastating challenge of resignations (which are increasingly happening DURING, rather than what was traditionally after busy season), the prospect of another busy season can seem like a nightmare.

To get ahead of the challenge, you’ve probably read up on ways to improve staff happiness and satisfaction during tax season. And to be sure, there are plenty of “10 ways” and “15 Strategies” articles out there that largely say the same things. That’s not because they’re using the same writer. It’s because there’s pretty solid agreement on what needs to be done to stanch the mass migration out of firms everywhere in the country.

The problem is, it’s pretty easy to say, “Hey, do these 15 things and everything will turn into unicorns and rainbows!” but it’s quite a bit harder to actually do ALL those things. In fact, it’s downright unrealistic.


So instead of giving you another “X Ways to Keep Your Staff Happy'' article, we’ve scoured several of them for you to find the four that are most achievable, agreed upon as effective, and realistic for you to implement ahead of tax season. Then we’ve provided insight into how these strategies work to improve employee happiness, as well as practical examples of how to implement each. Let’s do it.


Remote Work

After Covid, remote work became a staple of the desk-bound labor force. Now that they’ve had a taste, workers list it as an expectation of their employers. With nearly everything imaginable being in the cloud, there are few reasons for a firm NOT to offer this to staff, at least a few times a week.

How it benefits your employees
  • No rush-hour commutes

  • More family time

  • They can set up their environment in a way that makes them most productive (remember the stressors of Cubicleville: others having conversations, music, cold/heat problems…)

  • Expense savings on transportation, lunches, dry cleaning, etc.
remote work

How to make it work
If your firm doesn’t already have a work from home policy, it’s smart to start slowly, especially just before tax season starts. Don’t dive in and just let everyone go fully remote out of the gate. The realities of remote work are a little different for every business, and it’s best to know what challenges you might face before shaking the office off entirely. Start by allowing 1-2 days a week for remote work, and pay careful attention to your firm’s productivity and client satisfaction during this initial period. Adjust as needed. 


Overtime Compensation

Many employers bristle at the idea of paying salaried employees for overtime. You might argue that accountants understand what they’re getting into when they accept a job, and you’d be right — but what seems like an acceptable salary changes when you’re working a 15 hour day.

Working more than 40 or 45 hours a week during tax season can be unavoidable, but it doesn’t have to feel exploitative. Offering a little extra even to employees who are exempt under FLSA goes a long way to helping them justify the extra hours. Of course, there are ways to reduce the hours your staff needs to work, but we’ll get to that in a bit.

How it benefits your employees
  • Changes the perception of working long hours — they see immediate benefit

  • Employees feel appreciated, which often reflects positively on employee KPIs

  • Compensates them fairly for lost personal time
Overtime Compensation

How to make it work
If you’re concerned about how this might impact your bottom line or fear abuse, implement this concept with a limit of 15 or 20 hours/week. Compensation should be an hourly reflection of each staff member’s salary (2080 hours/yr. for a standard 40-hour week, in case you forgot).


Process Optimization

Optimizing your processes begins with process documentation, which can benefit your firm in all kinds of ways. Once you understand what your processes around tax season look like, you can work with your staff to find solutions to streamline, reduce overlap and duplication, and make everything you do more efficient. It helps to bring in an expert for some help here, but it’s not strictly necessary; many times problem areas will be readily apparent when you scrutinize them.

How it benefits your employees
  • Can significantly reduce their workload

  • Helps them understand their and others’ responsibilities



How to make it work
Work with your department heads or, if you don’t have any, your senior staff to review and document your processes (that link above has some helpful ideas there). This should cover everything from how and when tax organizers go out to final collections. You’re looking for duplicated efforts, unnecessarily complicated workflows, and “right person wrong task” situations. Once you’ve cleaned things up, plan to meet with your team(s) to discuss the changes and why they’ve been implemented. Be prepared to answer questions and be transparent.


Investing in Technology

Smart technology will reduce repetitive and data entry processes in tax preparation. Automation can save insane amounts of time for firms, and especially during a time of high activity. Many adopt technology to streamline their operations and improve accuracy. We admit to being a big fan of this one, since our automated bookkeeping solution falls into just this category. 

How it benefits your employees
  • Eliminates the tedium of repetitive data entry

  • Greatly reduces errors

  • Frees up time for other work (or going home on time, imagine that)

  • Allows your employees to spend more of their time with their clients

How to make it work
If you want to take advantage of technology to help you conquer the coming tax season with confidence that your staff will weather it well, time is running out to get started. But it’s not gone yet, so act quickly to assess, commit to, and implement the technology solutions that will get you closer to a smooth tax season. With any new piece of software, there is some learning curve, and you want your staff to have some time with it before things get too hairy. 

Tax season is unlikely to be a walk in the park anytime soon, but with some thought-through, timely changes, you can make it far easier for your staff. Botkeeper would love to be a part of those changes. We can even handle clean-up and catch-up work to get your clients on track. Want to learn more? Click below to get started!