Our busiest time of the year is fast approaching. Whether you are in public accounting or private industry you may soon be in your most stressful and overwhelming time of the year. In public accounting work, you may have year-end audits or tax returns to prepare for your clients. In private work, your year-end could involve multiple tasks. You might be completing work on the year end financials, preparing payroll and completing various tax returns, preparing investor reports, working with the outside auditors or putting the final touches on the new year’s budget. In some cases, you may be tackling all of the above! If you’re in charge, you know what has to be done and you know you’ll get through it again.
But What About Your Staff? Employees with less experience may look at this time of year with dread. Their friends will be skiing on the weekends or planning trips or adventures around President’s day. They, unfortunately, will be spending many of these days in the office. Family time will be sparse in the months ahead. All in all, your staff knows and expects that things will be different in the next few months. There will be more tension in the office, frustrations will run high, and generally, people will be on edge.
While you have confidence that things will eventually return to normal, it would be nice if things could be a bit more tolerable during the busy season.
What Can You Do? Here are a few ideas we’ve learned over the years.
- Be honest with people. Rather than beat around the bush, be upfront with your staff. Let them know what you expect of them. That could mean a number of things – different work hours, for example. Some companies structure time commitment as a total number of hours required weekly. Other firms set daily requirements – including those for weekend days. Often, we run short of staff at this time of the year. Rather than hide it, be upfront of that’s the case in your workplace. Let them know that everyone will have to pitch in to solve the staff shortage. Try to create a team atmosphere.
- Let them know they will be rewarded. While this may be a given for you, others may not have the same understanding. Some firms tell their staff the approximate bonus they will receive if they do their fair share. It may even be worthwhile to pass out part of these expected bonuses near the beginning of busy season as a sign of good faith.
- Feed them. Many firms have policies that provide meal allowances for working extended hours. While this usually works out well, you might consider taking it a step farther. Once every couple of weeks, make this meal allowance something special. Arrange a pizza night or have one of the finer, nearby restaurants bring in a catered meal of specialties. Served buffet style, staff can sample different foods and mingle with everyone. Whatever your plans, be sure that management participates. When that happens, you send a signal that “We are all in this together.” A gathering of this kind can reinvigorate employees when they return to work the next day.
- Give them a weekend off. A radical idea perhaps, but some firms have closed their office on one selected weekend during busy season. No one is allowed in the office at this time. Some firms even organize social events, such as a ski trip, day of golf or a night at the theater. Be sure to let everyone know the date, so they can plan their work around it. Such an event even gives a mini-deadline, which may increase productivity. Planning an event that includes the families of your employees is also a good idea.
What Other Things Have You Tried? Please help us share some of your ideas with others. Send me an email at email@example.com and let me know what you’ve done to keep balance at this busy time of the year.