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Are You Taking ‘Workations’ or ‘Worlidays’?

Posted on 10th August 2017 in Advisory

Written by Freya Hughes

Advisory services are all about strategising for success. You need to take a step back sometimes and really consider what it is your clients would benefit from. It’s great to get the whole team involved with your advisory offerings, but when you’re promoting your new way of working and figuring out how to help each individual client, you need to fresh head. There’s no way you’ll do your clients justice if you and your team are living for the weekends and dreaming of a vacation, so read on to find out why you need to be enforcing downtime.

HRGrapevine.com reports that 60% of us work on holiday when we’re meant to be taking a break. The national (UK) average time off for full time workers is 28 days’ paid leave, so that’s only 16.8 days where we’re not working per year. Considering there are 365 days in a year, that’s not much rest!

And it’s even worse for American workers, who are entitled to next to nothing. There is no statutory minimum paid vacation or paid public holidays. It is left to the employers to offer paid vacation. So we can see why burnout can be such an issue in accountancy. A detrimental effect of this for your firm is the churn of employees. You may find your staff are churning out after a year of service, which will be expensive to replace. But not only that, if you’re working your team to the bone, you risk being considered to be not empathetic, which may reduce people’s desire to work with or for you.

The accounting industry is known for its long hours and stressful work. People pleasing workaholic that wants to get the best results for your team and clients? You’re not alone. Stress and resilience coach Paula Davis-Laack‘s podcast with Abacus defines burnout as: “work related process of chronic stress and disengagement.” But why is it happening in accounting? In some cases, juniors know they need the experience of a busy firm to get ahead, and the firms know that so they let them work hard and get to burnout. This is the case across many industries, though doesn’t seem to be stopping or slowing down.

The three main symptoms of burnout include: exhaustion, cynicalness, and feelings of inadequacy. If you think you or any of your team are exhibiting symptoms, start a conversation and see if they’re struggling. It’s not weak to admit that your workload is too high, it’s sensible.

It’s not just tax season: the impact on advisory

When you come to rolling out your advisory services, you’re going to need a team with fresh minds to make it happen. Not only are you overhauling the way you and your team are used to working, you’ve then got to position it correctly to your community of prospective and existing clients. Inc.com sum this up nicely:

“Long work hours don’t make you more successful. Instead, they make you sick and worse, they make you ‘dull’ – in other words, mediocre and uncreative.”

Consider allowing your team to work flexible hours, or even take the team to a cafe or pub on a Friday an hour or so before the working day ends. A change in location will give the team’s minds a slight break, and getting some time away from their screens will be more than welcome. You need to be on the ball with strategising the roll out of your advisory services, so getting the team out of the office will likely get some ideas out of them.

Fresh minds create some of the best and novel ideas – and this is what you need to properly market your advisory services.

Management accountants, or advisors, need to be creative and strategic. It’s likely you’re good at finding patterns within sheets of numbers and that’s a skill in itself. Skills are worked upon, and you must ask yourself how you expect your team to be able to do so if they’re constantly victims of fatigue. If you’re in the stages of transitioning to advisory then you need your team awake and ready to learn. Putting your team through certification will take around 12 hours. As a break, you could suggest they take two days out of the office and complete the course. Doing the course from home will allow them to take their time and recharge while still adding value to your firm.

Obliterate staff churn

The end result of burnout is you lose staff. It’s estimated the cost of replacing employees is 150% to 250% of annual compensation figures which isn’t affordable risk. Retaining staff is by far the cheaper option for your firm, but also shows you care about the staff you’ve already hired. It makes employees nervous when there’s noticeable churn with their colleagues, so ensure you don’t lose anyone to burnout.

The Telegraph reported on the lack of downtime workers receive – and actually embrace. Sadly, 14% of those polled said they wished they hadn’t gone on holiday, as they returned to overwhelming workloads. You need to sit down with your team before any of them go away if the work is likely to pile up. Your team should be operating as a unit in front of clients, so ensure they behave like one in the office too. Appointing one or two staff to take over clients for the period someone is away is not as big of an ask as you’d imagine. Ask them to prepare a short report or a quick de-brief on the holiday-taker’s return is great practice, as they’ll be back up to speed within the day and can delete most of the intervening messages.

Accounting often means sitting still for extended periods, so encourage staff to do something fun in the office. Here at FUTRLI, we’re a lucky bunch as we have access to table tennis, and Brighton beach not far away. We type away at our laptops for the majority of the day, but having regular breaks keeps us focused on our work. Furthermore, a fresh fruit box is delivered weekly, so we know we can restock our energy levels whenever we start flagging. It definitely has a positive effect on the team, as (for the most part!) we’re all engaged and performing well.

Most crucially, you need to encourage your team to take their breaks. It’s not just for your firm’s productivity, either. Just last month, a worker’s ‘out of office’ email went viral. The writer felt close to burnout and made no secret of it:

“Hey team, I’m taking today and tomorrow to focus on my mental health. Hopefully I’ll be back next week refreshed and back to 100 per cent.”

The fact this went viral shows that it’s everyone, across all professions, that needs some downtime. It also highlights how little people discuss their mental health at work, and that needs to change. We know that we need regular breaks, but it is tempting to ignore the tiredness and power through. If you don’t mind the quality of work your team are providing slipping, then let them grind away – but this will impact on your entire firm if you do.


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