Your busiest season is nearly here, again. (As if you even need anyone telling you, like you didn’t already know, right?)
That said, it’s still true. And during the roughest patches of work, as a firm owner (or partner) there’s the risk of employee burnout. You know, when your accountants have some not-so-good performance and are possibly updating their resumes—ready to set out as part of the Great Resignation?
Maybe you think it’s not that huge of an issue, that your team understands, “it’s just part of it.”
Well, recently Time published an article covering a study showing that 35% of men and 42% of women felt overwhelmed by work in 2021. If you take a second to think about a third of your team being unhappy, hopefully it motivates you to do something about it.
That’s exactly what this resource is about!
YOU MIGHT ALSO GRAB A COPY OF THIS GUIDE "The Great Resignation: What Firms Need to Know to Prevent Massive Turnover"
First, Recognize Employee Burnout Signs
Seeing certain behaviors, ranging from slight to overt, help you understand where the team stands. There are signs helping you get a pulse rate on the mental health of your collective staff.
Here are several signs, split into three categories (emotional, physical, and productivity).
There’s a debate about whether or not accountants truly are introverted, but many people (even the outgoing) lack soft skills. This means burnout sometimes manifests itself in the form of overt emotionalism including:
Negative comments and body language (particularly not seen before). Often this behavior comes out during new assignments, tasks that are out of the norm, and during reviews.
Distancing themselves from the rest of the team. This is when someone seems to change in how they act or include themselves with the team. (In a negative way, of course.)
These are a bit tricky, because you’re not a doctor or a private eye (well, not likely, at least). A physical sign of burnout usually comes through:
Increased sickness. Do they seem a bit off? Having fatigue often? Chronic stress affects the ability for the immune system to function properly.
Increased call outs. It could be sickness, could be avoidance, but increased absence is a potentially telltale sign of burnout.
“The proof is in the pudding,” as they say. Burnt out teammates may not show the majority of signs, which is why we’ve grouped them into three categories. If they don’t seem emotional, maybe they don’t seem as healthy.
If they seem emotionally and physically well, maybe they aren’t performing. Including self-explanatory signs such as:
Mistakes in their work
Note: As mentioned, these signs are ones that should be out of the ordinary. Your team doesn’t typically exhibit these symptoms, but begin to—especially during times of increased work pressure.
Fight Burnout Through Leadership
Knowing is half the battle (cue the G.I. Joe song). The point is, take time to evaluate the condition of your crew. Putting up sensors is a great way of seeing many types of problems in advance, and burnout is no different.
Key point of action: Take some time to recognize recent behavior that’s possibly attributed to burnout. And regularly look out for the signs as the busy season continues.
Job dissatisfaction is something those on the team blame on either firm leadership, or a lack of fulfillment in their job. We’ll focus on the leadership angle now, and come back to the fulfillment piece further down.
Key point: Once you recognize the signs of burnout, it’s important to ask yourself, “What could I have done to avoid this scenario?”
This isn’t just for the busy season, either. If you’re experiencing difficulty from one person (or more) on the team, the first place to go is your personal behavior and practices.
- Example: Jane is always a day or two behind on tasks.
Most of us immediately think of reasons why Jane can’t keep up. Fair enough, but first think about your leadership. That’s a bit harder. And the exercise may end up changing in the hiring, onboarding, or regular work practices.
Or it could be Jane. But it’s best to reflect before you react.
Adjust What You Control
The work, especially during tax time, is hard. If the bulk of your business is tax and audit, there are always times of heavy client influx.
A couple of big things you control include:
Time: Time includes spending some more with the team, either in small groups or 1:1 meetings. Knowing leadership cares often goes well, especially during high-stress times.
Money: Many firms do things like pay for lunch during busy times. And that’s great, but there are a number of other benefits to offer when burnout seems prevalent. Things like getting massages, increased remote work days, put on a party (whenever you’re able and it’s safe).
Consider Some Changes to Your Firm’s Model
Yes, we just mentioned that there are times your firm is busy. However, there are ways of making molehills out of the tax-time mountain.
Let’s cover two prominent ones:
- Transition to a year-round model
- Automate redundant tasks
The Year-round Model
If you really think about it, no one really loves most of the money and work that goes into a small time frame. Your clients pay a mid 4-figure sum (or more) for you to handle their tax filing, and you have a large number of clients coming to you at the same time.
It’s not exactly a “lose/lose situation,” but close enough.
The year-round gist? Offering your tax services, plus monthly bookkeeping, for your fee—split into 12 monthly payments.
We actually wrote a full article on the topic, specifically with tips on moving from the one-time to the monthly model. If you’re interested in trying out this tactic, you’ll find it here.
Automate Redundant Tasks
The other decent-sized change includes the use of automation. Remember when we mentioned the two reasons for dissatisfaction—leadership and lack of fulfillment?
A lack of fulfillment, specifically in accounting careers, comes from your consultants being stuck doing things like reconciliations, new client onboarding (cleaning up those messy books), and other redundant tasks.
They want to help people (either individuals or businesses) improve. Move the needle. Do more. While starting with clean numbers is essential, if that’s all you’re doing, you don’t feel like you’re making a difference.
We’re painting with a wide brush there, but you get the idea. People want to feel bought in, brought in, and part of the process.
A monthly payment model alleviates much of this, because you’re connected to a client’s financials, taking away the need to clean up a year’s worth of data before you can prepare a tax return.
You can reduce that redundant burden even more using automation. Numerous firms have seen success with automation, including this firm that incorporated automation and saved $150K. Click below to read their story!