Burnout can strike any worker in any industry. But the risk is especially high for accounting and finance professionals during busy season, when client demands intensify, workloads rise, and deadline pressure mounts. So much for fun at work, right?
Stress on the job is on the rise, according to an Accountemps survey. More than half (52 percent) of workers said they are stressed at work daily, and six out of 10 reported work-related pressure has increased in the last five years.
But did you know that in a happy and relaxed environment, where you’re having some fun at work, you can ease the madness?
A sense of humor can help you build better rapport with your coworkers, more easily defuse stress, fit into the corporate culture at your company and advance your career. Here are some suggestions to help you have fun at work and reduce stress during this crunch time:
1. Engage in extracurricular activities
Organize some activities outside the office, and try to involve as many people as possible. When you spend time with your team away from work, you get to know them not just as colleagues, but as people. The relationships you build through fun activities often translate into better collaboration on the job.
The possibilities are endless. A few off-site ideas include free concerts or shows, bowling, miniature golf, book clubs, running groups, lunches and old standbys such as company picnics or office happy hours.
2. Set up a Fun Committee
Ask management if you and your coworkers can organize company activities. Every employee is busy in your office, so you won’t want to go overboard promoting fun at work. But do think outside the box to come up with events.
The fun doesn’t need to be time consuming or elaborate. For example, work in a potluck dinner, have an accounting-themed scavenger hunt or maybe even a goofy "Office Olympics," which might include audit report binding competitions and calculator computing matches.
3. Jump into a different sort of March Madness
As accounting and tax professionals, our March Madness centers on the income tax deadline. To sports fans, March Madness means the annual NCAA basketball tournament. Despite the piles of paperwork you're facing, you and your colleagues don’t have to miss out on the hoopla of life.
Despite the piles of paperwork you're facing, you and your colleagues don’t have to miss out on the hoopla of life.
If you have a local team in the tourney, organize an employee group to watch the game after work. Talk to your employer about the business benefits of March Madness at work, and discuss the idea of a tournament bracket contest with small prizes. If that's against company policy, simple bragging rights are attractive to most people. You'll be amazed at how much fun bracket predictions and game results can generate on the job.
Meanwhile, if you think you’re already in the red zone, here are some common signs and sources of stress — and solutions:
Clear signs of work burnout
Burnout can impact you physically or mentally, and on the job or off. Some clear signs:
- You wake up tired and stressed
- You dread going to work
- You’re less engaged and productive
- You’re irritable and impatient
- You’re making more mistakes
- You’re sick more frequently
- You count the seconds until you can leave the office
Sources of stress in the workplace
Because work burnout can undermine your health and emotional well-being — not to mention your career — it’s imperative that you address the problem quickly. Start by trying to identify the root cause(s) of your stress. For example:
- Is the work beyond your capabilities as an employee?
- Is your boss too demanding?
- Are the late nights required during tax season wearing you down physically?
- Is work-life imbalance preventing you from engaging in activities you enjoy, including spending time with family and friends?
Once you’ve identified the key issues contributing to your stress and lack of fun at work, strategize solutions. For example, if long hours on the job are disrupting your family life, ask your boss to consider alternative work options, such as telecommuting or flextime.
Solutions for avoiding or rebounding from burnout
To keep work burnout at bay during tax time, try some of these strategies:
1. Plan for some fun
Give yourself something positive to look forward to when tax season is over, such as taking a day trip or going on vacation.
2. Take short breaks
Several times a day, let your mind rest and recharge. Step outside to get some fresh air, make a cup of tea, or have a quick chat with another employee.
3. Protect your time
Staying organized is critical to finishing tasks. Rather than trying to juggle two things at once, use time management to schedule periods throughout the day to focus on key assignments.
4. Speak up
If your to-do list is never-ending, it's possible you have too much on your plate. Talk to your manager about your workload and ask for help.
5. Take a break
Feeling overwhelmed during the day? Step away from your desk, go for a walk or run, or grab a health snack. If you can't get outside, look away from the computer and focus on a non-work-related activity for a few minutes.
6. Listen to music
Bring headphones to work and enjoy tunes that might help you keep your motivation high and improve your productivity, efficiency, innovation, focus and frame of mind, such as these:
- “Walking on Sunshine” by Katrina and the Waves
- “Roar” by Katy Perry
- “I Can See Clearly Now” by Johnny Nash
- “Take the Money and Run” by the Steve Miller Band
- “Working for the Weekend” by Loverboy
- “Survivor” by Destiny’s Child
- “Money (That's What I Want)” by the Flying Lizards
- “Under Pressure” by Queen’s Freddie Mercury
- “Eye of the Tiger” by Survivor
- “Money” by Pink Floyd
7. Talk to your boss
Many employers call in reinforcements during busy time using temporary accounting staff. It's a way to prevent their core team from succumbing to burnout on the job. Having more people to help out can benefit your company culture, not to mention everyone’s moods.
Discover how Accountemps can help employers with accounting staffing solutions.
Remember that the accounting version of March Madness can take a toll on your work and also on the people around you. Reach out to your family and friends for support during the busy times at work. By covering all your bases and having some fun at work, you can guard against the insanity and celebrate after it calms down.
Best of luck!
Editor's note: This post was originally published in 2014 and was updated recently to reflect more current information.