As tax season starts in earnest, it may be a time of dread for your staff. They may be getting ready to settle into a season of constant work and stress. However, you can change the way you manage your practice and staff to give them a better experience. Here are several ways to do that.
No More Mandatory Weekends
For most firms, mandatory Saturdays or weekends are an expected part of tax season. With all the work that needs to be done, it makes sense that your employees need to work weekends, right? I believe this a practice that needs to be abolished. I don’t believe working weekends makes us more productive or results in getting more work done.
Laura Vanderkam, a time management expert, talks about how time is elastic in her TED Talk “How to Gain Control of Your Free Time.” She gives an example of how she was a having an executive track her time. During this week of the study, the executive’s water heater broke and caused a flood in her basement. It took seven hours to clean up the mess, have plumbers come out to the house and hire professionals to clean the carpet. At the beginning of the week, this executive said she was so busy that she had no time for personal pursuits, but she was able to find seven hours when push came to shove.
Because time is elastic, if you tell your team they are going to work weekends, they are likely to stretch the work they are given to fit the extended timeline. However, if you get rid of mandatory weekend work, they will likely get the same amount of work done in that compressed time period because they will have prioritized to get the work done in the allotted amount of time.
Provide Incentives Throughout Tax Season
Many firms give out bonuses at the end of tax season to reward their staff. While that is nice, it can be more powerful to incent them throughout tax season. For example, give incentives such as a spa day or extra vacation days to hit certain targets: average turnaround time on a tax return, the number of returns completed in a given week or something else that is measurable. Providing these incentives when certain targets are met will reward them at the time they met the target or goal, and encourage this work throughout tax season.
Take Needed Breaks
Just because there is a lot of work to do does not mean there isn’t time to have some fun. Schedule happy hours to have a little down time so your staff can relax. This can also be done with remote teams by doing virtual happy hours where everyone jumps on a video meeting with their drink of choice.
In addition, encourage your staff to take regular rest. Getting rid of mandatory weekend work allows your staff to get the needed rest they need in order to do their best work. However, if working weekends is necessary, make sure to give them a weekend off each month between February and April. This goes for you, too! Firm owners need to be well rested to set an example for the rest of the team. If you tell them to take breaks, but then don’t do it yourself, your actions speak louder than your words; the team will feel they can’t take breaks and rest.
Do Less Work and Implement Value Pricing
Your tax season doesn’t need to be crazy – it is your choice whether it is. One way is to do less work, but less work doesn’t mean making less money during tax season. By implementing value pricing and providing additional services to your clients, you could be serving fewer clients and making more money. Particularly in 2019 with the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, there is an opportunity to change how you price your returns. With this added revenue, you can get rid of your worst clients or those that give your staff a hard time. In turn, this will mean less stress during tax season and a happier team.
By getting rid of mandatory weekend work, providing incentives throughout tax season, taking needed breaks and doing less work, you can change how your firm operates and provide a better working environment. This will result in a more invigorated and loyal staff who will stick with you for the long haul and be happier.
Editor’s note: Josh references TED Talks; check out this article for several other TED Talks for tax pros and accountants.