Culture Corner: Tax season is for the brave

Richter’s HR Manager, Paula Fernandes, is a skilled professional that has helped many of her colleagues through the challenges that accompany the busy season known simply as “tax time.” Here, she gives further insight into just how management and individuals can get through the season, without getting too stressed out.

Speak to anyone in public accounting at this time of the year and they will all say the same thing: “there is no escaping the busy tax season.” There’s no way around it, it’s something that individuals in the tax and accounting profession simply have to get through; but what can we do, as a firm, to collectively help them survive this time?

distressed person with tax documents

Leaders – Be aware

We all recognize that the tax season workload is substantial and our goal is to help our team members avoid burnout. Remaining healthy, productive and collaborative ensures success for your team and your clients, but when times get busy and stressful, it takes effort to achieve.

As HR professionals or senior management in a professional services firm, prior to the busy season it’s important to:

  • Evaluate your staff requirements and limitations; prepare to provide further help, if required;
  • Foster team collaboration; if a team is supportive of one another, they will be that much more effective overall. The whole truly is greater than the sum of its parts;
  • Encourage team members to take their full lunch and break times – these are much needed. Breaks give team members the chance to refocus, which in turn will help keep them productive;
  • Make sure that team members are aware of the support structures available to them, whether in or outside the firm, like an Employee Assistance Program, should they need to talk through any issues and might feel more comfortable doing so anonymously;
  • Show gratitude, always! Thank your team members for their commitment! Feeling appreciated is highly motivational, and easy to achieve.

During the busy season there are many simple, but effective and creative ways to help:

  • Speak to your team members. Determine if there are any individuals who seem overly stressed, and if so, intervene – ask them how they are doing, connect with them, take time to understand their situations;
  • Chair Massages – my favourite! Organize for registered practitioners to come to your office and provide 15-minute massages to team members. It’s the length of a typical break, but really helps take the edge off the whole day;
  • Healthy (and sometimes not so healthy) treats during the work day; which can also come in the form of subsidized meals – especially if team members are staying late, ensure they know dinner is on its way, or can be reimbursed;
  • Encourage other team members to show support for their colleagues – perhaps they did something nice for you during a busy time? Pay it back (or pay it forward) by grabbing them a coffee or just simply checking in to see how they’re doing.

Tax and audit professionals – Self-care

If you are starting to feel low in energy or depleted physically or emotionally, take some basic measures to help ease stress.

  • Take a break – I mean a real break – disconnect from all devices, laptops, cell phones, etc.;
  • Socialize with your colleagues, a 10-minute chat can work wonders for lowering stress levels;
  • Exercise, even if it’s just a walk, 20 minutes a day can help get the blood flowing and boost endorphins;
  • Stretch or practice deep breathing techniques in your chair;
  • Sleep – unwinding properly each day helps you prepare for what’s to come tomorrow;
  • Love music? Connect the headphones and listen to something soothing or up-beat, to help level your mood accordingly;
  • Plan healthy meals or snacks (days in advance, if possible);
  • Sip on a herbal tea, green tea contains loads of antioxidants that reportedly help improve brain function;
  • Finally, I’m a firm believer that snacking on the occasional piece of chocolate here or there can do wonders!

Beyond tips and techniques, make sure you check in with yourself emotionally, especially if this is your first time going through tax season, or you are just starting out in the profession.

  • Give yourself some recognition – celebrate your milestones – consider what you have already achieved in this season alone!
  • Reach out to your colleagues or managers, ask them for help or ask them if they need help;
  • Smile… no, laugh! Take time to watch a comedy, YouTube videos, or even a Vine or two if you can spare a few seconds; it’s crucial to lift those spirits;
  • Connect with a friend or family member; find out what is happening in their life, even if it’s just via a simple text.

Above all, remember: the keys to getting through any busy season successfully are focus, preparation and team work – we are capable of accomplishing so much more when we work together.

As written by Paula Fernandes, CHRL

About Richter: Founded in Montreal in 1926, Richter is a licensed public accounting firm  that provides assurance, tax and wealth management services, as well as financial advisory services in the areas of organizational restructuring and insolvency, business valuation, corporate finance, litigation support, and forensic accounting. Our commitment to excellence, our in-depth understanding of financial issues and our practical problem-solving methods have positioned us as one of the most important independent accounting, organizational advisory and consulting firms in the country. Richter has offices in both Toronto and Montreal. Follow us on LinkedInFacebook and Twitter.