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While workload ebbs and flows, it’s not unusual for accountants to work 60–70 hours a week – sometimes more. Talk about the job being taxing (pun intended). Today, work is even more complex than before, so tax season is more intense than ever.
Earlier, while one might have groused and grumbled about tax season burnout, there wasn’t much discussion about how one could manage or avoid it. It was just part of the job.
Nowadays, many of us – if not most of us – know better. It’s crucial for our physical and mental health to acknowledge and manage burnout. As we head into tax season, let’s take a breath and understand how to avoid burnout.
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How Does Tax Season Burnout Affect Accountants?
Burnout results from chronic stress, and can have consequences for workers’ health and well-being.
According to a publication in the National Library of Medicine, burnout is a major predictor of several physical consequences, including but not limited to:
Type 2 diabetes
Coronary heart disease
Burnout can be characterized by exhaustion, dissatisfaction with one’s performance, and a lack of commitment with clients. It may lead to negative effects on not just workers, but their families and coworkers.
Sometimes, the impact of burnout is minimal. A typographical error on an online press release might be embarrassing, but will hardly cost a company anything more than a bit of pride. However, errors in accounting might have more serious consequences.
How to Avoid Accountant Burnout During Tax Season
1. Learn the Signs – and Look for Them
The first thing to know is that adrenaline is really good at making you think you’re doing just fine. This is a reason why you might crash right after submitting work for big due dates.
While there are no universal symptoms for burnout, here are a few major ones you can look out for:
Emotional: Irritability, feelings of detachment, “drowning” or defeat.
Physical: Headaches, body pains (in the neck, back, etc.), insomnia or difficulty sleeping, exhaustion or tiredness, gastrointestinal issues.
Behavioral: Skipping meals, overeating, reduced productivity, procrastination, snapping at people.
2. Set Boundaries
Setting boundaries is hardly new advice – but it remains crucial to bear in mind.
Generally, people – especially dedicated professionals – have a difficult time taking breaks or saying no when the papers on their desk are approaching the height of a 3 year old. If you find yourself falling into this habit, try establishing boundaries and taking regular short breaks.
However, it is important to note that boundaries are only one side of the problem. The other side is systemic problems in the workplace. For example, what if there are no people to delegate to? What if the workplace demands long hours regardless of employees’ health?
In cases such as these, one needs to address the larger issue. If you are in a position to do so, try to create a company culture that allows for delegation and reasonable working hours.
3. Automate & Delegate
Many accountants end up doing simple, repetitive tasks that should be delegated or automated, and then end up scrambling to finish high-priority work.
You can avoid burnout during tax season (and otherwise) by delegating low-priority or simpler tasks to junior accountants. Filling out paperwork, running errands, and scheduling meetings are such tasks. Remember, all those minutes pile up into hundreds of hours.
For tasks that are time-consuming and repetitive, use accounting software. For example, for credit card reconciliation and bank reconciliation, you can use reconciliation automation software, such as CrushErrors. You can run it on your own, or hire NextGen Accounting to take care of the whole process for you.
For many accountants and C-suite executives, tax season can seem like the worst time to invest in new software. However, by getting the most robust technology on your side, you can speed things up considerably, saving yourself from reaching for another pill for that migraine.
Outdated technology can be a source of stress for your employees. Upgrades or investments in new tech can come as a huge relief. This isn’t limited to automation – you can also use technology for organizational purposes, such as cloud computing and workflow management software.
4. Lower the Time Per Tax Return
One organized system for questionnaires, requests, payments and engagement letters – that’s the goal. Having a single system can speed up production.
Many companies wait until the last-second tax deadline for files, which cases a huge spike in the workload. Furthermore, they also have unnecessary delays in processing payments and sending and receiving documents.
The more organized you are, the more quickly you can serve your clients well and increase your revenue.
5. Eat Healthy
Most of us are already aware of how food can affect our energy levels. Foods such as refined carbs (including pasta, bread and rice), sugary breakfast cereals and yogurts, and alcohol can make you feel tired and sluggish.
So the next time your stomach’s rumbling while you’re at your desk, reach for some fresh seasonal fruits, lean proteins like turkey and fish, complex carbs, or unsalted nuts and seeds (such as almonds, walnuts, and sunflower seeds). Pre-packing a healthy meal from home is also a good way to stay away from your local pizza joint. Your body (and energy levels) will thank you.
For many people, their diets become unhealthier the busier they get. However, it’s important to be aware of how the food you’re consuming is affecting you, so, if you are in a position to do so, make it a point to eat well regardless of how swamped with work you are. You will likely find yourself able to get through the work more easily.
6. Lower Distractions
Interruptions during tax season can be especially frustrating. Hence, it is important to delegate certain activities or set aside some time every day to manage distractions such as client calls or emails.
This way, you will limit distractions and will remain on track throughout the day. Do whatever it takes to focus on your work – put your phone on silent, hang a “Do not disturb” sign on your doorknob, and so on.
7. Take a Break
Lastly, take short breaks throughout the day if you can. A little walk around the block at lunchtime can work wonders for your mood (and back).
If you find that you are approaching burnout, don’t be afraid to take a day off, if you are in a position to do so. Completely disconnecting may seem selfish and far-fetched, but it will help you rejuvenate yourself and come back to work with a fresh mind.
Of course, a full day off isn’t always possible. In such cases, try to limit the hours you work on some days. Too much overtime will just give you eye strain. On that note, make sure that you leave early enough that you can get a good night’s sleep.
All of these tips, when taken together, can help manage your stress during tax season and prevent burnout. Some fatigue is to be expected – it is busy season, after all – but putting your health at stake is never a good thing.
And finally – don’t be afraid to outsource. NextGen Accounting offers bank reconciliation services, credit card reconciliation services, financial reporting, audit and anti-fraud assurance and consulting services.
To give you the most accurate and fastest reconciliation, we use our patented software CrushErrors, which we specifically created for huge amounts of data that other reconciliation software cannot easily manage. You can also obtain CrushErrors as a product if you’d rather conduct reconciliations in-house.
NextGen Accounting’s management team has decades of experience and includes former executives of Barclays Bank, Bank of America, and ICBC. Contact us today for reconciliation services or book a free demo if you’d like to get CrushErrors!