Co-founder Mazuma
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Look after your team as lockdown and SA takes its toll

Lucy Cohen outlines how you can keep your team’s spirit alive during the long hours juggling tax returns and Covid support.

22nd Jan 2021
Co-founder Mazuma
Columnist
In association with
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A work team having a social drink
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January looms large in the world of accountancy practice - and not in a good way. The tax return deadline inevitably leads to an increased workload and clients who have left it to the last minute to get their books in to their accountants.

After the festive period, January can be a real shock to the system. This is only compounded by dark mornings and dark nights - and this year we’re dealing with lockdowns and homeschooling too. If you have a team around you, now is the time to look after them.

So what can you do to help your team through January? Here are a few ideas.

Keep talking

First and foremost keep those communication pathways open. When the to-do list is long, let everyone know how far along it you are. Knowing that you’re making progress can help keep people motivated and prevent them from feeling like they’re just treading water.

Seeing finished tasks on your way to completing a goal is fantastic for morale. You could think about having a shared document that everyone can update in real time. Even if you’re not in the office together a good old white board or flip chart with targets getting crossed off via a Zoom call can be very satisfying for everyone to see.

Having good communication with your team during busy times also empowers them to ask for help when they need it. Knowing that they can ask for help can significantly help to manage a team’s stress levels and let them know that you’ve got their back.

Think about your team’s culture

Keeping a company culture thriving when everyone is working from home can be challenging, but there are things you can do to keep team spirit alive.

I know of many accounting firms who have a post-work social with the team on a Friday - a chance to wind-down and chat with your colleagues online at the end of the week. Maybe you can swap your background to a picture of your favourite place to add a bit more colour to your conversations?

I even heard of one firm who sent their team a snack box each for the team's drinks so that they could try and create that after-work-catch up feel from home. It’s never going to feel exactly the same as seeing each other in person, and can occasionally feel a bit daft, but it can be fun to do those things together.

Zoom quizzes, themed days and online board games are other fun ways to liven-up proceedings and show your team that you care about them outside of the never-ending list of tax returns left to complete.

Small gestures mean a lot

Accounting Excellence Covid Hero Sharon Pocock understands the importance of recognising people’s efforts. Throughout the first lockdown she made sure that her team stayed engaged by sending them small gifts and treats. How lovely to answer the door on a dreary work day to a little gift from the boss. Gestures like this don’t need to be big or costly; even sending a handwritten card saying that someone is appreciated can really let a person know that they’re valued.

Monetary bonuses have their place, but a personal and thoughtful gift can l go a long way  to letting someone know that they count.

Clubs and hobbies

With your team living and working in the same space all day, the lines between work time and downtime become blurred. Many of your team will have had hobbies and sports that they took part in before 2020 hit us. During busy periods at work those pursuits are even more important to help people unwind and recharge. However, multiple lockdowns and restrictions on our lives have left many people struggling to pursue hobbies - to the detriment of their mental health.

As practice owners is there anything we can do to help remedy this problem for our teams? At Mazuma we’ve provided access to online fitness classes, wellbeing and mental health management tools. But I think the idea can go further.

What about ‘repurposing’ that book club for those who love to read and discuss their thoughts or own experiences afterwards? In our physical office we had a staff room that people used to leave books they have read, for others to borrow. Perhaps there’s a way of safely doing that remotely too by extending the book club idea to sharing interesting travel podcasts or programmes, for example?

If you really want to go all out, I know of a business who held a talent contest via Zoom. The winner was someone who performed incredible hula hoop tricks; a skill that no one in the company knew they possessed.Or maybe each week a member of your team could volunteer to do a show and tell style presentation. Just five minutes of something fun that lets everyone know a little more about them.

Putting people first

When work gets stressful it’s all too easy to focus on ploughing through the workload and barely coming up for air. If 2020 taught us anything it’s that focussing on your team and their wellbeing is not only worth the investment, but is the right thing to do for everyone.

Abraham Lincoln said, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe”.

Your team is the axe, and January is the tree. Show them how much you value them and you’ll reap the rewards.

AXA Health For more useful tips on mental wellbeing support in the workplace and how to build resilience, watch the webinar with Eugene Farrell, Mental Health Lead at AXA Health.

 

 

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