The home stretch of tax season means heavy workloads and long hours for accountants. This time of year, nerves are frayed and tensions are high. It’s no walk in the park for managers either. In addition to your client load, you’ve got to keep your team motivated and focused so they remain productive, resilient and energized.
Here are some helpful employee motivation tips to buoy your team during the close of busy season.
1. Foster a positive work environment
Try to keep the office atmosphere as upbeat as possible. To keep employees’ spirits high, promote collaboration by discussing as a group tricky tax issues and solutions. Be sure your team knows you are there to support them and willing to pitch in.
Would bringing in a foosball or ping-pong table relieve stress and add some fun during tax season? You know your team best and what kinds of activities help them unwind. When your accountants are frazzled, it’s your job to remain calm and positive and be an enthusiastic cheerleader and coach.
2. Pamper your staff
If there’s an office dress code, consider relaxing the rules when your employees are working long hours. On days when they aren’t involved in client meetings, allow staff to wear jeans and sneakers for greater comfort. Spring for dinner. Rent or buy a massage chair. Offer to substitute exercise balls for desk chairs, or bring in yoga mats and foam rollers for stretching. And provide plenty of hydrating beverages. You might even consider hiring a personal assistant to run errands for busy employees.
Another treat might be to designate one day of the week as Pet Day. The presence of well-behaved animals can promote relaxation and boost employee motivation, so long as it doesn’t bother clients.
3. Encourage healthy habits
When things are at their busiest, it might be tempting for employees to arrive early, stay late and live on caffeine. Don’t be an accomplice to your team members sacrificing their mental and physical health during tax season.
Urge them to take lunch breaks and recharge with walking and stretching. You don’t need to ditch the candy jar altogether, but put it behind healthy snacks such as fresh fruit, vegetable trays and granola. If you have the budget, hire a massage therapist or a yoga instructor to come by the office to ease some of the stress.
4. Get extra help
Pressing deadlines and too much work can lead to employee burnout. Check in regularly with your accountants to make sure their assignments are manageable. If there aren’t enough hands on deck, it’s time to bring in reinforcements.
Temporary accounting staff can lighten the load and provide needed expertise. Another bonus of bringing on interim professionals: You can evaluate them firsthand for potential post-tax season full-time positions.
5. Reward your team
Keep employee motivation high throughout tax season, and especially during the home stretch, by offering surprises. During meetings, acknowledge your team’s hard work and thank them for their contributions.
Have a variety of goodies to reward workers on the spot. Rewards can include movie tickets, gift certificates to a spa or gift cards. You might even announce a “mandatory” work stoppage at 4 p.m. on Friday and take everyone out for happy hour.
6. Acknowledge a race well run
When tax season is over, it’s time to celebrate. Of course, raises and bonuses are always appreciated, but the reward doesn’t have to be monetary. You could give each member of your accounting team an extra personal day or coordinate a firmwide outing, such as bowling, a performance, concert or sports event. If you have the resources, invite workers’ family members as a way to acknowledge the sacrifices the household makes during tax season. Anything that shows your appreciation and gets workers out of the office will do the trick.
These tips are offered to improve employee motivation when your workers are at their busiest, but keep in mind they work hard all year long. Find big and little ways to thank staff and promote work-life balance throughout the year. When you do, the reward will be yours in increased loyalty and satisfaction from both your team members and your clients.
Paul McDonald is senior executive director at Robert Half, the world’s first and largest specialized staffing firm. He writes and speaks frequently on hiring, workplace and career-management topics. Over the course of more than 30 years in the recruiting field, McDonald has advised thousands of company leaders and job seekers on how to hire and get hired.
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