5 Ways to Avoid Employee Burnout During The Busy Season

Year-end is one of the busiest times of the year for accounting professionals. Reconciling the year’s data, preparing the books for the upcoming year, sending out forms for tax and compliance regulations. It can be time consuming and fast-paced, and it could leave your team feeling overwhelmed and stressed. Combat burnout during the busy season with this advice:

Plan ahead.

If your busy times are set each year (i.e., tax season and year-end), look at the schedule ahead of time and see if there are adjustments that might help ease your team’s stress. This could be reallocating responsibilities or cross-training your team to help cover upcoming vacations or time off. It could also mean hiring temporary staff to help when workloads are too heavy for your team alone.

Talk to your accounting team early and ask what they need. Who will be out of the office when and how would that workload change if spread across the rest of the team? Would someone be able to cover those gaps or are there other tasks at that point in the month that will take priority? When would it be most beneficial to hire a new team member considering how long it would take to train them? Drafting a game plan ahead of time will help your team feel secure and in control far before the busy season hits.

Optimize your time.

Time is the single non-renewable resource on earth, so it’s important to make sure you’re using it effectively. Year-end often brings large projects and audits - if your standard to-do list isn’t cutting it, it’s time to consider alternative ways to manage the workload. Identify how long each task will take and work with your team to create deadlines according to what needs to be finished first. Is there a way to automate certain tasks that dominate your team’s productivity? Look for resources, tools or software that could remove that burden from your team’s shoulders and give them the time in their schedule to move on to something else.

Strive for continuous improvement.

Evaluating current processes is an easy way to learn why some tasks are more time-consuming than others. Are you using your current workflow because “that’s how it’s always been done”? Have you identified unnecessary steps that make it difficult to get things done quickly? Make it a priority to fine-tune your processes to be as efficient as possible before the busy season hits. That way you and your team aren’t fighting with a tedious workflow - and don’t be afraid to change it up if something isn’t working! In the case of an accounting department, if your month-end closing procedures are solid, your year-end processes won’t be so overwhelming.

Solicit feedback from your team. If they can pinpoint exactly what’s wrong with their current workflow, you have a better starting point to begin making changes. Speaking of changes, start small.

Don’t completely redo an entire workflow if you don’t have to. If the small changes work–that’s great! If not, try something new. If you’re noticing that one process isn’t working regardless of the tweaks you’ve made throughout the year, that may be a sign that it’s time to look at alternatives or reaching out to colleagues or other managers. The goal is to reduce the workload and stress on your team, so if your ideas aren’t working it’s time to look for other options.

Schedule team check-ins.

Your team should ask for help when they need it, but it’s also necessary to keep an eye out for burnout as a manager. Some employees can easily ask for help while others struggle to let go of their workload enough to accept help even when offered. Schedule time bi-monthly (or weekly if need be) to discuss your team’s workload and how you can help them succeed. If some of them are showing symptoms of burnout, it may be time to redistribute projects or assignments to others.

Time management is key during busy seasons, so adding another set of eyes (and hands) to a project that is progressing slower than expected is a good way to ramp up the speed without stressing an employee that’s already feeling the pressure. Make small adjustments to workflows until you have a more efficient process that will work for everyone. Checking in often means you’ll be able to adjust as needed and touch base with how your team is feeling about the workload.

Recognize your team’s successes.

“The best leaders understand that long-term results are created by all of the great people doing the work — not just the one person who has the privilege of being at the top.” — Marshall Goldsmith
Though you may have held off the burnout through the busy season, there’s no doubt that your team will need a little R&R after it’s all over. Take a moment to share your appreciation. Bring in treats, take them out for a team-building afternoon, or let them leave an hour early. You can even hand write individual notes to give that personal touch. Do something that shows you value their hard work! Don’t forget to share statistics on what they accomplished—keep them apprised of what part they play in the big picture of the company’s success.

Need some guidance in year-end forecasting? Read how to create a planning model that works.