Managing a heavy workload is nothing new for accounting and finance professionals. In particular, the 1986 Tax Reform Act created deadlines that compress many firms’ tax and audit work into the first three months of the year, a situation known as work compression. Accounting practitioners rate work compression as a top business concern and leading cause of employee burnout.
The pandemic created additional stressors, including remote work, shifting workplace priorities, and rapidly changing business and technology needs. For many firms, these issues increased already high workloads and contributed to employee stress.
But even though workplace stress increased for many during the pandemic, the problem of too much work and too few employees in the accounting and finance department is an ongoing issue. A Gallup poll from before the pandemic found that two-thirds of workers surveyed experienced on-the-job burnout, with unmanageable workloads a leading cause of burnout.
The effects of burnout are costly. Overwhelmed employees often become unhappy, may work less effectively, and are prone to seek work elsewhere – conditions that negatively impact organizational productivity
If your team is pushing its limits, here are some strategies to help streamline your projects and minimize workload compression or excessive job demands:
1. Upgrade and automate
Moving to a cloud-based finance and accounting system can save time for everyone on the team. Instead of emailing individual co-workers about invoices or searching for payments on separate computers, a cloud-based team works on a centralized system that everyone can access. These platforms provide transparency into projects and make planning and collaboration easier.
Additionally, automating tasks, such as preparing invoices, sending payments, and reconciling accounts, allows technology to assist with day-to-day tasks so your team can focus on higher-level projects.
2. Prepare in advance
Whether it’s the end of a quarter or the beginning of tax season, thinking about what you need in advance helps reduce your workload.
For example, if you become familiar with new tax legislation before tax season, you won’t have to scramble to understand new rules while also preparing tax returns. Additionally, you can request that clients submit tax return documents by a specific date to a secure online portal. You’ll reduce last-minute requests and the need to sort through both paper and online documents, saving you time and reducing stress.
3. Reduce distractions
Implementing simple time management strategies can reduce daily stress for finance and accounting professionals. Instead of responding immediately to each email you receive, set aside a few times a day to review and respond to your messages. You might turn off notifications to reduce distractions as well. Let your colleagues know you won’t reply to emails right away and explain how they should reach you for urgent situations.
Reduce time spent in meetings, if possible. If you’re a manager, consider having “meeting-free Fridays.” If you’re not a manager, you can’t always control how many meetings you have, but you can ask your supervisor if you can block out parts of the day to focus on important projects instead of meetings.
Supervisors can also plan office hours or weekly check-ins with individual staff members to reduce interruptions during the day.
4. Prevent burnout
Seemingly small things – taking a 10-minute walk outside a few times a day, for example – can make a difference in your day-to-day stress level. Also, consider what tasks you most enjoy and see if you can spend more time on them during your day and delegate things you like less. This isn’t always possible, but it’s worth exploring.
Plan vacations a few times a year, whether it’s a staycation or a trip to the islands. Everyone needs a complete break from work to recharge. If you’re a manager, be sure to take vacations so employees see that it’s okay for them to plan getaways, too.
The line between work and non-work has become thinner as more people work from home, but it’s important for all employees to set boundaries. Add time to your work calendar when you won’t be available, so everyone knows your schedule. If you’re a supervisor, avoid regularly emailing your team after normal work hours. It’s important to set an example by modeling healthy boundaries.
5. Bring in help
Consider your projects for the next three to six months: Do you have the necessary team expertise to tackle everything on the list? Do you have enough people to complete tasks on time without overburdening your current staff?
If you lack team expertise or enough people to take on your upcoming workload, consider bringing in temporary finance or accounting professionals to support your existing team.
It’s doubtful that there will be less work in the future for finance pros, so it’s essential to prepare. Using the strategies above can assist you and your team in managing heavy workloads and reducing workplace burnout.
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Clea Badion is a copywriter, social media manager, and corporate blogger from the San Francisco Bay Area. She’s been writing about career and workplace trends for over a decade, specializing in blogging, website content, ghostwriting, thought leadership pieces, executive speeches, and presentations.