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Is your approach to Self Assessment sustainable?

20th Feb 2024
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Bright was created in 2021 when Thesaurus Software Ltd. and Relate Software Ltd. decided to join...
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Around-the-clock caffeine, submission error nightmares, and chasing your tail for last-minute records... While it’s great to think that your firm’s taking the best approach towards busy season, the truth may hurt once you start talking to your team. As accountants, you may be so acclimatised to a chaotic environment that your approach towards the Self Assessment deadline could just look like another average Wednesday in the office.  

Sure, you may have weathered the January storm, but did you navigate a sustainable course for the long haul? Here are some ways to quicky identify sustainability leaks in your approach to busy season for next year, with some simple tips on how to fix them. 

What was the run-up to January 2024 actually like? 

Firstly, talk to your team. They’re the ones who’ve been chasing client records, double-checking figures, and scanning receipts. Some of your team might feel more comfortable sharing their frustrations face-to-face, while others could prefer to share it anonymously. For those team members, setting up a survey on Google forms or SurveyMonkey could be a great starting point, and to share it around the company via email.  

Make sure the questions you ask reflect the responses you’re looking for. Nobody wants to snitch on their colleagues or expose a department for underdelivering, which can often feel like is the case when filling in company questionnaires. 

Solution: It’s your responsibility to have proper procedures and systems in place to tackle the busy season workload. If you don’t, then that’s on you, not your team. So, make sure that this is communicated before handing out any type or surveys or questionnaires. If the results you get are a bit hard to swallow, then take them apart piece by piece. Encourage further meetings about topics that are mentioned multiple times. Implement wellness initiatives as part of your busy season strategy (e.g. Flexi time, free counselling services for the month of January, or spa vouchers on February 1st). 

Some team members may have been busier than others 

It’s important to note that how busy your team are in January is often the luck of the draw. Someone may have been incredibly fortunate and had clients with pretty straightforward returns, whiles others could’ve been at their wits end dealing with lost records, uncontactable clients, and a whole other host of unfortunate events. 

Some team members could also feel inclined to show initiative when busy season ramps up by taking on extra work. For example, if payslips have to be sent but there’s a bag of receipts in the office to be dealt with, someone could take initiative by logging into the payroll software and emailing out clients’ employees’ payslips in the early hours of the morning. That way, the team can spare a few hours the next day to get through the bag of receipts. It's in these situations – which can often go unnoticed by managers – that the cracks in the workflow start to manifest. 

Solution: While your attention might be pulled in a hundred different directions, tune in with your team on a regular basis and ask them what they’ve been up to. Identify those who are carrying the brunt of the work, praise their efforts, and redistribute accordingly. Busy season isn't about faking it ‘til you make it, it's about the fairness and transparency of work across the team towards that finish line. 

 Track your team’s time to identify bottlenecks 

There are a lot of tools out there to track productivity, but none of them can beat the simplicity and accuracy of a time tracking tool. Time tracking tools provide a bird's eye view of where your team's hours ebb and flow. If they use a tool that can track the time spent on each task, while they work, then accountability goes both ways. They can let you see where they’re really spending their time, and you can determine when work needs to shift and be delegated elsewhere. Prioritisation, transparency, and adaptability are their tools of the trade when it comes to busy season, and a time tracker is the perfect sidekick to really put those tools to the test. 

 It also opens the floor for more authentic conversations. Rather than saying "How are you getting on with that client's tax return?" you could say "Hey, I see that client has taken up an extra five hours from you this week. What can I take off your plate so you can get through the rest of your work?" 

Remember, it’s not about who shoulders the most work, but how effectively you can distribute this work for the greater wellbeing of your team. Helping your team patch up any leaks their boats where the undercurrents are at their strongest helps balance the entire load of your team and keeps everyone else on course.  

Solution: Encourage a culture where discussing the redistribution of work isn’t just acceptable – it’s expected. You can use an efficient time tracking tool, like the one we have in our practice management software for accountants, BrightManager, to spotlight inefficiencies and adjust the tasks delegated to your team. 

The responsibility of workload around busy season lies with you 

Every year on January 31st, we all head towards the same bay, but how quickly and efficiently your team’s boat gets there is ultimately in your hands. If it’s not done in a sustainable manner, then burnout and other consequences could take effect sooner rather than later. It’s the training, processes and tools you have at hand that will steer your team in the right direction and overcome any waves the ocean throws at it. 

Here at Bright, we can help ease your workload around busy season and other hectic times of the year with a number of tools, including our cloud practice management software, BrightManager, our latest cloud tax compliance solution, BrightTax, and our cloud payroll software, BrightPay. To see how they can cut down time for next year’s busy season, watch back our Self Assessment webinar below. To see our products in more detail and how they can help your firm, book a quick 15-minute demo below. 

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eleanor vaughey

 

Written by Eleanor Vaughey | Bright 

 

 

 

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