A stress-free year end? Probably not going to happen. A less-stressful one? Absolutely possible.
Especially when you lay the groundwork early to keep your finance department from turning into a frantic zone during this understandably hectic time of year.
We’ve consulted the experts on workplace stress to see what tips they offered. Here’s the best of what we’ve found on the subject – see how many of these three strategies you can incorporate into your own department this year-end:
Strategy #1: Give staffers more control over the process
Yes, the work’s got to get done, no matter what. But why not give staffers some say in how it gets done or even who does it?
The Proof it Works: In a study, teams that had control over the work pace, organization of rest breaks, and allocation of overtime and assignments experienced lower emotional distress. And it lasts: Six- and 18-month follow up still showed staffers were more autonomous.
So once you have your tasks outlined (you probably already do), think about opening it up to staffers to get their input on how they’d like to divvy up the work and schedules or even how often they should take breaks in their processing. And resist the urge to check up too often on their progress.
Strategy #2: Be aware of transition times
The professional stress of year-end coincides with a time of notoriously high personal stress: the holidays. And if job stress blends into home stress (or vice versa), everybody loses.
It can take 20 to 30 minutes for the body to return to baseline after experiencing a “stressor” – and the commute home likely doesn’t help matters.
That’s why, especially during the year end crunch, it’s critical you do all you can to ease employees out of their workday. Think about having staffers end their days at the office with some decidedly low-stress activities. Maybe some filing of all those old invoices so records will be ready to be boxed up and stored when the new year arrives.
It’s a practice that can help not only at year-end, but all year-round.
Strategy #3: Keep technology from making things worse
Technology is supposed to make people’s jobs easier – but we all know that’s not always the case. There are several ways the technology staffers rely on every day can make their jobs more difficult when time is at its scarcest. Three fronts to watch:
- Nasty surprises. Many year-end tasks now have to be done using technology. Make sure you’ve done test runs way in advance to make sure: W-2 and 1099 info is printing in the proper fields, you can access government filing systems, etc. An 11th hour glitch can derail your process and your people.
- Help in a holler. Hopefully you have a good relationship with your IT department. But at a stressful time like this you want to know this key department has Finance’s back. Try touching base and reminding IT you’ll be under the gun for a few weeks so if a finance staffer is having PC problems, he or she will be high on the to-help list.
- Ergo errors. Extra hours and a rushed pace means sitting squarely in front of a monitor may not be top of mind for your finance folks. Now’s the time to make sure everyone’s workstation is properly positioned so no one ends up with a bad neck, back or wrist. Then be sure to keep a vigilant eye out in the coming months – if you see a staffer cradling a phone and typing, for example, call it to that person’s attention.