You shouldn’t put your life on hold for work. But for many people, the months after the end of the financial year are a tough period. Many business operators work weekends and stay up after midnight to meet their end-of-financial-year obligations, and accountants and bookkeepers similarly work long hours to process financial returns and calculate tax refunds.
July and August are “an absolute onslaught -- extended hours, late nights and weekends,” says accountant Jess Murray, whose firm RocketTax is powered by Xero Tax. Like many accountants and bookkeepers, she has developed strategies through the years to minimise the stress.
We’ve collected her ideas and others for surviving and even thriving during crunch time.
Set family expectations
If your work patterns are going to be a little different for a month or three, the people who live with and rely on you need to know. Explain you’re going to be under stress and that you’d appreciate their help and understanding. Be as explicit as you can about how long the busy period will stretch.
Supportive partners are important in coping with high-stress periods in your life, so make sure they understand what you need.
Enlist family members
If you have family at home, ask if they can temporarily assume a little more of the household load. If your hours are going to be markedly longer, let them know you might struggle to reach some of the events you would normally attend. Ask them if they can each tackle on an extra household task or two for a couple of months. Reassure them that this is a short-term issue and that after EOFY ends, you’ll be able to pick up the load for them at their crunch times, too.
Clean your slate
Schedule a break before the busy period so you can recharge your batteries. Get your household situation in order. Get the car serviced, pay the bills and do those irritating little household tasks you’ve been putting off.
Bring in help
Hiring a cleaner for a couple of months is a lot cheaper than having one year-round. Sign up for a healthy meal-delivery service like Youfoodz or HelloFresh. Once a week, replace a home-cooked meal with healthy takeaway food – yes, it does exist. See this guide to healthy takeaway.
It’s easy to stay seated in front of the computer, and research literature on personal productivity suggests taking breaks. The best frequency of break isn’t clear: suggestions range from 25 minutes on and 5 minutes off (the Pomodoro method) to 90 minutes on and 20 minutes off (Dement and Kleitman). Recent research tends to favour more and shorter breaks, moderate exercise and taking a lunch break as well.
Particularly if you work from home, consider taking an afternoon nap. Research suggests that even a 10-minute snooze can increase energy, alertness and mental performance. Thea O’Connor, a consultant who has spoken at CPA Australia conferences on the benefits of napping, says that when workload is high, the early afternoon power nap can be a powerful tool. A 30-minute rest can recharge the batteries, improve verbal memory and help you to stay alert longer into the evening, without leaving you feeling temporarily groggy the way a longer nap might. A few organisations even encourage napping at work – most notably, Google.
A lot of EOFY work can be a slow grind, and the end can seem a long way off. When you hit a milestone, pause and recognise that you are indeed making progress.
Research on “optimism interventions” suggests they reduce pessimism and emotional tiredness. So give yourself some sort of reward at milestones. And let your family know about your progress too, so they can share in your satisfaction and see the process is drawing closer to a finish.
The same principle applies if you’re working in a team: be aware of the power of frequent recognition and encouragement. The online shoe and clothing store Zappos famously uses this to focus its teams and improve productivity and team welfare. You can do the same. When a team is working on a large number of tasks, consider a “celebration trigger” like ringing a bell for completing each client’s tasks. There’s research to suggest sharing good news – social psychologists call it “capitalisation” – builds relationships within a team, increasing feelings of intimacy, commitment, trust and liking.
Thanking your team
If you’re in charge of a workplace team, thank them for their efforts when the rush is over. These people have made extra efforts to ensure the business stays on track. The least you can do is recognise that with sincere and well-expressed gratitude.
And if your team has made special efforts within a larger organisation, make sure upper management knows about it and, if possible, recognises it. Not only will that give the team recognition, but it may make it easier for team members to progress within the organisation – one of the most valuable possible rewards.
Ask your business for support
If you’re working as part of a larger organisation and you have evidence that you and/or your team will be under stress meeting EOFY demands, talk to your manager about extra resources. Research suggests that people substantially underestimate the likelihood that they’ll get help when they ask for it.
Before you ask for help, get your request in shape. Work out exactly the extra resources you are likely to need, and why and when you’ll need it. Where appropriate, talk with your team about how the EOFY crunch has been handled in the past, and what its effects have been. Then you can make a realistic and confident request to your manager, rather than an apologetic one.
And make sure you present a request, not a demand. Your manager or coworkers may have solutions you haven’t considered. It may be that you can move some tasks temporarily, draw upon other resources in your organisation, or get funds to bring in temporary resources from outside.