How to help your employees handle the stress of tax season

Whether we like it or not, tax season is almost upon us. While retailers tend to find the build up to the year-end holidays the most stressful time of the year, tax professionals reach their busiest weeks shortly after that, when tax season hits.

Understanding the language of tax law doesn’t come easily to everyone. Many find the forms confusing, and heavy fines loom above the heads of anyone who gets it wrong. Talk about pressure.

No wonder even the best-prepared clients get stressed out when faced with a tax form. And then these stressed out clients come into your office and dump their problems on your employees.

Do stressed out employees perform worse?

The relationship between stress and performance is complicated. A little stress is often beneficial, as it acts like a motivator and fuels employees to do their best.

However, studies have shown that a continuous high level of stress contributes to underperformance, poor time management, an increased likelihood to commit errors, a lack of focus, and worsening relationships.

The level and limit for stress is different for everyone. Some people handle stress better than others. One employee may freak out over a workload that leaves another one unscathed.

It’s safe to say that the 3.5 months of tax season are long enough, with the stakes and workload high enough for even the toughest employees to lose their cool.

However, it’s safe to say that the 3.5 months of tax season are long enough, with the stakes and workload high enough for even the toughest employees to lose their cool.

That’s not how you want your employees to face the incoming crowd of clients during tax season, right?

While it’s impossible to eliminate or even significantly lower the stress of tax season, the good news is that there are ways you can help your employees cope with that stress.

To each their own

As we said earlier, people have a different tolerance for stress. Several employees may be able to handle more than others. As their manager, you should be familiar with each of your employees’ tolerance and what makes them thrive.

You may want to consider increasing the workload of people who can handle it better, while easing the burden on others who are more sensitive to stress.

No worker should become a free rider on others backs, and nobody should get significantly more work than they can cope with.

This doesn’t mean that several employees should take all the work while others hang around the watercooler chatting about their weekend plans.

Put as much work on each employee as they can individually shoulder. No worker should become a free rider on others backs, and nobody should get significantly more work than they can cope with.

To avoid resentment among your staff members, make sure to discuss the issue with all employees concerned. Offer appropriate compensation to those that shoulder more of the burden of tax season.

Set a healthy routine

Work doesn’t have to only be about work. Encourage your employees to set a healthy routine for their work day that allows them to perform at their peak while maintaining a healthy work-life balance.

Take short breaks

Research shows that taking frequent short breaks allows workers to refocus their minds and fill up their energy tanks for upcoming tasks.

Every so often, employees should take a two-minute break from work. Watching a short funny video, or walking to the coffee machine for a refill is enough to recharge those batteries and help them feel on top of things.

It’s important to keep these breaks really short. Watching the new trailer for Game of Thrones is quite enough. Starting an actual episode with the aim of pausing it after two minutes is virtually impossible, and it will have the opposite effect. You don’t want to encourage workplace distractions among your staff members.

Physical activity

The life of a tax advisor involves a lot of sitting. Whether your employees are meeting clients, researching new legislation, or typing on their keyboards, they’re usually doing so in a seated position. And sitting for long periods of time is very unhealthy.

We’re not saying you should get rid of all the chairs in the office (although a chairless office may be just what’s waiting for us in the future). Instead, encourage your employees to move around whenever they have the chance.

If a meeting doesn’t require a lot of note-taking, try to do it standing up. As an added positive side-effect, the slightly less comfortable position will encourage participants to be as brief and concise as possible, allowing everyone to get back to work faster.

Set regular reminders for office staff to get up from their computers and stretch their limbs and necks (research recommends short breaks involving physical activity every 60-120 minutes).

If a meeting doesn’t require a lot of note-taking, try to do it standing up. As an added positive side-effect, the slightly less comfortable position will encourage participants to be as brief and concise as possible, allowing everyone to get back to work faster.

As an ultimate treat, you may even consider organizing a yoga class for your employees during lunch hour or after work. Designate a space for the class and invite an instructor to direct it.

That way, your employees can take their minds off work for a while, do something vital for their health, and even skip the gym on their way home (meaning they’ll have extra time on their hands to finish that one last task on the to-do list).

It doesn’t have to be yoga. Depending on your employees preferences, you can offer any kind of fitness class as long as it doesn’t require heavy equipment. Put the question up to a vote and organize the exercise most popular among your workers. In no time, you’ll find yourself in the position of the most popular employer.

Conclusion

Managing a business is much more than looking at balance sheets and making hard decisions. This is especially true if the business heavily relies on its human resources. You need to look after your employees and create conditions that allow them to thrive.

Take care of your employees so they’ll take care of your business.