The accounting busy season can be a stressful time, but with optimal resource capacity planning firms can be better prepared for its recurring arrival.

In this blog, we will explain what accounting busy season is, when it occurs, who it impacts, provide short-term tips – and most importantly – offer a long-term solution to prevent staff burnout during this time and increase staff retention in the long term.

What is the busy season in accounting?

Perhaps more aptly called the “busiest season”, the accountancy busy season does not contrast to other slow seasons. In fact, accountants tend to be busy all year round but accounting busy season is simply the busiest time of the year for accountants.

At this time, accountants face various deadlines (depending on which field of accounting they are in) and commit to long hours to meet these, often at a cost to their own wellbeing. According to caba, the occupational charity for members of ICAEW (the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales) accountants are disproportionately suffering from stress and burnout; 56% of accountants admitted to this compared to only 41% of employees in other sectors, business sizes, and job roles.

When is the busy season in accounting?

Busy season accounting occurs at different times for accounting professionals depending on where they are located and which accounting field they specialise in. For example, accounting professionals in the UK specialising in audit tend to have their busy season within the first four months of the year. This is due to many UK companies using the calendar year as their financial year (with a December 31st year end) and audit regulations in the UK stipulating a time frame of 6 months to complete public accounts and 9 months to complete private accounts. By starting early in the year, auditors in the UK can allow more time before the deadlines to address any unforeseen issues and ensure the firm is ready for subsequent year ends. In contrast, tax accountants in the US have two busy seasons. With deadlines on April 15th and October 15th, tax accountants in the US can expect to be busiest from March to April and from September to October.

Types of accountants that go through the busy season

Regardless of which field accountants are in (public, private, audit or tax) all accountants will face an increase in workload during their busy season in order to ensure that all of their clients’ accounts are accurate and up-to-date by their deadline.

Short-term tips for surviving busy season

Some of the most common suggestions for surviving accounting busy season include:

Taking frequent breaks

Outsourcing/automating time-consuming tasks

Celebrating successes with your team

Whilst these mostly self-driven tips are beneficial to provide some short-term respite for accountants, it begs the question whether the burden of the busy season should be placed on the hardworking individuals doing the work. Given further research from caba indicating that 36% of accountants feel they are too busy to access their firm’s mental health support, shouldn’t the onus be with employers to implement a long-term solution which contributes to a better working environment during busy season and beyond?

Dayshape: A long-term strategy

Preparing for the accountancy busy season is paramount to ensuring its success, as Benjamin Franklin once said, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail”. With AI-powered resource management software like Dayshape, capacity planning for the accountancy busy season can be transformational for firms.

What is resource capacity planning?

Resource capacity planning is a balancing act. It’s the process of determining the amount of work that needs to be completed by resources at your firm, deciding what tasks and engagements can be completed by said resources, and matching the work to be done with available resources to meet the current and future demand of your firm’s services.

Given the demand for services can be higher than the resources available – particularly common during the busy season – capacity planning is not an easy task. However, its importance cannot be understated as inadequate capacity planning will negatively impact your people, your clients, and your ability to perform and complete in the long term.

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What are the benefits of resource capacity planning for the accounting busy season?

The Dayshape solution allows firms to:

Maximise utilisation with firm-wide visibility

AI-powered capacity planning software gives firms the option to go beyond local and/or service line resource assignment and drive efficiencies by looking at skills and availability at a wider level. This visibility allows for the creation of more effective, bigger-picture capacity planning strategies, to smooth the demand curve of the busy season, whilst also adhering to the current working patterns of many staff who have chosen to work remotely since the pandemic.

Improve work-life balance with utilisation scoring

When scheduling work it’s crucial that the resources are selected not only for how suitable they are to complete a task, but also how available they are. Dayshape’s utilisation filters allow resource managers to quickly and easily determine which resources are under, over, or optimally utilised when scheduling unassigned work. This helps firms to improve utilisation rates and maximise profit whilst also being mindful to prevent staff burnout during the accounting busy season.

Fairly and effectively allocate resources with suitability scoring

A data-driven approach to capacity planning reduces job selection bias and allows work to be distributed more effectively and fairly across the firm. This is particularly important during the busy season when resource managers are likely to be under pressure and, without the data, may resort to assigning tasks to resources who are top of mind without truly considering how their skill set and availability compares to other resources.

Alternatively, Dayshape provides objective scheduling which automatically calculates a suitability score for every resource, allowing firms to ensure the best match for the task is found every time. This score considers elements such as skills, accreditations, work experience, as well as resources’ preferences to work on different types of jobs. This can positively impact staff satisfaction and retention, while supporting diversity and career advancement within a firm. In addition, flexible completion time frames can be entered when creating work in Dayshape. This maximises the opportunity for resource managers to find suitable resources to complete the work in time – especially useful during the busy season.

Optimise demand forecasting and skill utilisation with reporting

With in-depth capacity and skill utilisation reporting, resource managers have the insight they need to fully utilise existing skills and better understand capacity risks alongside current and future demand. For example, a resource manager may find via reporting that there is a general shortage of resources compared to forecasted demand. Dayshape will not only highlight this but can also indicate which specific areas require additional resources, e.g. which staff grades, which skills, which locations. This can prove particularly useful when preparing for an upcoming busy season to secure the most necessary Just-in-Time (JIT) hires to maintain quality standards.

Provide a single source of truth by integrating with other software systems

Dedicated resource management software will integrate with other software systems to provide a single source of truth for key information. System requirements will vary by firm but may include HRIS, CRM, finance systems, and timesheet software. By integrating with HRIS, resource managers can be more flexible with staff who may request holidays during the busy season. This is because it’s much easier and quicker to assess and make decisions when there is only one source of truth unlike with siloed software. Similarly, by integrating with CRM systems, Dayshape can provide up-to-date information on incoming engagements to enable resources to be allocated to tasks with sufficient periods of notice prior to the engagement starting.

Final thoughts

Whilst short-term tips are useful, long-term strategic thinking around the accounting busy season is the best way to ensure its success at your firm. To avoid busy season burnout and consequent impacts on retention, firms need to better prepare for the busy season by utilising resource capacity planning tools from resource management solutions like Dayshape.

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