March Madness: Are You Adequately Staffed for Tax Season?

With the tax deadline right around the corner, it’s crunch time for accounting firms. Tax season means it's time for employees to roll up their sleeves, put on the coffee pot and prepare for plenty of late nights at the office.

While everyone expects to work some extra hours during tax season, how much work is too much? Sustained stress can lead to sickness, burnout, lower productivity and retention issues.

So, how do you know if your firm is adequately staffed for tax season? Here are six questions to help you determine if it’s time to hire:

1. How much overtime did your staff work leading up to tax season?

Have extended hours been the norm? If your employees have put in excessive hours for several months, they may be stretched too thin to handle the additional workload of tax season.

2. What’s the general mood in the office?

When you greet team members, do you see smiles? Or, do typically friendly people now seem unhappy and short-tempered? If the water cooler conversations revolve around complaints, your employees may be shouldering too heavy a burden. Likewise, if employees are late to work or start taking an unusual amount of sick days, they may be feeling overwhelmed.

3. How common are errors?

It may be time to hire if accounting mistakes become increasingly common. Clients depend on your firm for accuracy, so errors can mean lost business and revenue — as well as damage to your organization’s reputation. It’s best to take action and bring in permanent or temporary reinforcements before clients complain.

4. Are your top employees still meeting expectations?

Maybe you’ve come to expect average or lackluster work from a particular employee. But see it as a warning sign if the productivity of typically high performers dips. Even the cream of the crop can struggle under excessive workloads.

5. Are you able to stick to your job description?

As a manager, you need to focus on the big-picture needs of the organization. Are smaller, more routine tasks eating up your time because an extra hand is needed? This is likely a sign you need to hire additional staff.

6. Have you tried other ways to reduce stress and work hours?

You may be able to maintain your employees’ productivity by taking steps to reduce their stress levels. For example, you might motivate your employees to go the extra mile with some rewards, such as a company party at the end of tax season. However, these perks will only go so far if your firm is inadequately staffed.


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Editor's note: This post was originally published in March 2014 and has been updated in 2016.