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Four tips to avoid EOFY burnout

Business

Remove the stress and anxiety from tax time with best-practice approaches.

By Guy Pearson4 minute read

The end of the financial year is one of the most stressful periods for small businesses and many turn to accountants for support. The latest research from Xero showed 76 per cent engage an accountant or tax adviser at this time.

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So the pressure falls on accountants to complete bookkeeping, boost tax returns and plan for the new financial year.

There is compounding pressure to help clients improve their financial position and understand areas of strength and weaknesses as small businesses battle inflation, worker shortages and rising wages, plus the ongoing impacts of COVID.

While heavy workloads and deadline pressures are common in the accounting profession, this period of relentless work stress can lead to feelings of anxiety and, worse, burnout.

Burnout has been linked to many serious negative physical and mental health outcomes but also to feelings of futility and alienation, which could undermine the quality of client service and relationships.

To meet increasing work demands and prevent their staff from feeling depleted and exhausted, there are four things accounting firms can do.

  1. Automate and avoid wasting time on manual tasks

One way to reduce the workload stress is to consider which admin-intensive tasks can be automated through technology.

Many accountants still rely on manual processes to engage, bill and get paid by clients. By automating time-consuming workflows such as billing and payment collection, accounting firms can improve workflow efficiency and reduce the administrative burden on their practice staff.

Accounting firms should also opt for software that provides a single source of truth between accountants and their clients to ensure information is accurate and verified.

For example, automated updates can help accountants stay on top of real-time changes to financial documents without calls or emails.

  1. Set expectations with clients and ground rules for working together

Accountants can often fall into the trap of over-delivering for clients to demonstrate their value. To reduce the risks of burnout, it’s important to set expectations with clients about how much you’re willing to take on, as well as establish ground rules for working together.

This could mean setting clear boundaries on your available hours and not taking calls outside of these hours, and prioritising time for self-care and rest.

Scope creep is often common during the EOFY period, where a client may ask for one more job to be carried out that wasn’t agreed upon in the original engagement. Scope creep can lead to lost time through unpaid work, profitability issues and added stress.

It’s important to understand in detail what your scope is and use that information to have an open and honest conversation with your client to realign expectations.

  1. Take advantage of flexible working arrangements

It’s also important to set boundaries with team members within your organisation. Accounting leaders should check in regularly with teams and individuals on their wellbeing and lean into their suggestions on ways of working to achieve a good work/life balance.

This might involve reducing the number of internal meetings to allow for deep focus time, exploring whether tasks can be curtailed or pushing back deadlines.

Taking advantage of flexible working options can also help accountants manage stress and make space for more restful and positive time away from work. Accountants can use their at-home time for “head-down” tasks and use their office time to collaborate, connect and communicate with their colleagues. They can also establish arrangements that work for them, for example starting earlier if they’re doing the school run.

  1. Seek out open conversations and connections

In many ways, the EOFY period can be an opportunity to build long-lasting client relationships. By facilitating open conversations with clients and communicating with empathy, accountants can not only provide high-quality counsel and service at a critical time, but also work more collaboratively and efficiently together.

One of the best antidotes to burnout is seeking out connections with others. Burnout is widespread in professional services and it’s likely others will have similar experiences. Online accounting communities can provide safe forums for sharing problems and workshopping solutions together.

The accounting profession can be fast-paced, demanding and stressful. But burnout isn’t insurmountable. By automating admin-intensive tasks, setting client expectations around scope, taking advantage of flexible work options and seeking out connections, accountants can beat burnout for themselves and their teams.

Guy Pearson is the co-founder and chief executive of professional services software company Ignition.

Four tips to avoid EOFY burnout
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