We Run Your Practice

How to Prevent Accountant Burnout during Lockdowns

It might come as odd that “burnout” — which is defined as “physical or mental collapse caused by overwork” — would come about when people are being told not to work.

But accountants in the UK are in the unfortunate position of needing to provide guidance and assistance to clients on everything from countless new loan schemes, to their clients’ usual year-end accounting needs.

Instead of having a reduced workload, accountants in the UK are feeling the opposite: Added workload under impossible circumstances.

Keeping the day-to-day grind of daily bookkeeping and accounting is hard enough for busy firms, but that problem is tripled when trying to do it with screaming kids in the house and the inability to even go for a walk to clear your head! Indeed, burnout in the accountancy sector as a result of lockdowns is a real thing.

Here are some practical steps you can take to reduce stress and hence lower the chances of burnout during Britain’s seemingly never-ending lockdowns.

“Pass the Buck”

These days, we’re often told that “we’re all in the same boat”. A modified version of that statement is “We’re not all in the same boat, but we’re all in the same storm”.

Accountancy practice owners have the burden of having to keep their practices profitable despite the inability to operate as usual. And they have the added burden of needing to keep employees on board and not letting anybody off.

An 80% salary payment to a maximum of £2,500 might’ve been a nice stopgap for three months, but it’s a bit of a joke if carried on for a year or more. People need their full salaries, and a lot of people earn more than £2500 a month.

Also, to take advantage of the above scheme would mean furloughing valuable staff. And that means you can’t use them! That’s ludicrous for any business trying to stay afloat.

Businesses simply won’t last much longer if they can’t get back to work and, for that reason, it is crucial for an accountancy practice CEO to “pass the buck” and shed some of their burden onto their employees.

It should be a case of: “I’m working myself to the ground trying to make sure I don’t have to let you go. You can help me by taking some of the load off. I know it’s tough, but we’re in this together.”

People will respond to that. And employees will be glad to help.

Realise you can’t solve every client’s problem.

Optimism reigned back in March 2020 when lockdown was a new thing, and the Chancellor stood up tall like the people’s champion, promising help, assistance and hard cash wherever possible.

But people are tired now. A ship can only sail so far with no wind and no one at the oars.

As a service provider, you undoubtedly want to do your level best to help every client stay on top of their business. Many of them are probably even friends of yours.

But some are likely going to fail no matter what you do.

You are not a bank. And the current debacle and mismanagement of the pandemic is not your fault.

It’s a tough pill to swallow, but swallowing it will go a long way to alleviate the indigestion you might feel at knowing that one of your clients’ businesses might indeed go under through no lack of effort on your part.

Do your best but you must realise that you are neither a miracle worker nor the headmaster of Hogwarts who can wave a wand and make all the bad things go away.

Streamline your processes

The sudden need to know everything about cloud software and remote-working might’ve itself been a cause of extreme stress for many accountants.

But, ultimately, the only long-term solution for lowering stress is to work more efficiently.

Streamline your processes

Some crucial tools required for streamlining an accountancy practice are:

  1. Email parsers — stop wasting endless time on emails that can be automatically routed or deal with according to simple rules.
  2. Software integration — many tools can “talk to each other” these days and a platform like Zapier can help you connect them so that repetitive tasks are automated.
  3. Online Scheduling, such as Calendly. (You can even use this for staff to schedule time with you instead of calling you every five minutes!)
  4. Project Management tool (we use Monday.com).

Take a 30-minute time-out every day.

If you live in a small house with kids running around then shut yourself in a room and put some music in your ears at loud volume.

If you live alone, switch off all your devices and read a book.

If you have a balcony, step outside and don’t let anybody disturb you.

You need to find time for yourself where you’re not doing something for other people. It might be tough to find a way to do that during lockdown, but it is crucial.

Eat healthily and exercise.

Be sure to eat properly balanced meals and not to skip any meals. As for the exercise, you can couple it with your 30-minute time-out and hit two birds with one stone.

Keeping your body healthy is essential if you want to keep your mind healthy.

In a nutshell

If you take some time out for yourself, eat healthily, don’t sweat trying to solve every problem and turn over some of the load to people who will help you, you’ll greatly reduce your chances of burning out from excessive stress.

How Accountancy Practices Are Changing as a Result of COVID

“Pivot” was the buzzword in 2020 as business after business was forced to, well, pivot so as to rise up to the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic and the UK’s neverending lockdowns.

Companies which, previously, had never worked remotely were forced to do so in the blink of an eye. What was supposed to be a tough few weeks in March 2020 has now become a way of life with no apparent end in sight.

As such, businesses have been forced to find new ways to monetise their services and, in some cases, to completely change the way they operate.

Here are some of the ways that we’ve noticed that accountancy practices are changing as a result of the COVID pandemic.

Offices aren’t as important as they once were

This is a contentious subject which has been raging for a while, with one side pushing for a complete WFH solution while the other pounds the drum for a total “Back to the Office” approach.

Many people have indeed seen that a hybrid model of WFH and Back-to-the-Office is something that employees are in favour of.

The office has long been a place where mums and dads could get away from the kids and actually get some work done. It is also a place where people can socialise and gain that human contact that people innately need.

But COVID has shown us that accountancy practices can indeed operate from home, and rather successfully.

Indeed, one of the things that We Run Your Practice has specialised in, even before the COVID lockdowns, has been this ability to work remotely because it forms such a core element of how we work.

The Office is usually one of the typical accountancy practice’s two largest overheads, the other being HR.

Before COVID, talk of shedding the office while still being considered a serious business was unheard of. Now, however, it is becoming more the norm than the exception.

Why pay valuable funds for unused space?

Cloud software

Accountants were possibly already more au fait with this subject than other businesses as a result of the government’s Making Tax Digital program which came into force for VAT returns before the pandemic hit.

But the use of cloud software for almost everything else has spiralled out to new levels — video conferencing tools, team collaboration tools, online project management tools, etc.

To think of running our practices without these tools, even if we do all return to a full-time office scenario again, is hard to imagine!

More digital marketing

More digital marketing

The multiple lockdowns’ key message to people was that Digital Marketing is crucial to surviving in this modern age. Many Digital Marketing companies saw an increase in business during 2020 as businesses of all kinds scrambled to get their online presence under control — accountancy practices included.

Digital Marketing is affordable and effective. If done right, the ROI for such marketing can be far higher than traditional marketing.

Even “old and fusty” accountancy practices are probably now also seeing the benefits of embracing new technology to obtain clients.

From accountants to consultants

As a result of the plethora of financial schemes and aid announced by Chancellor Rishi Sunak, accountants across the UK ended up being extremely busy as they waded through the many rules surrounding each of the financial aid and loan packages on offer.

From advising clients with their applications to actually going ahead and filling in the applications themselves, it was just one more step for accountants to also start advising those same clients on how best to protect their cash flow in the midst of this crisis.

Willy nilly, UK accountants became the go-to resource for advice on furloughs, cash flow and anything else related to keeping businesses afloat.

A cursory look at the LinkedIn feeds of some UK accountants shows clearly that none of these consulting services were being charged for — but they could be, at least when the crisis is over.

Whereas many accounting firms have traditionally remained firmly within their groove as accountants, the COVID-19 pandemic has likely shown many accountancy firms that they can give good advice to businesses that is not entirely accountancy-related.

Cash flow and forecasting — advisory functions

Cash flow is the main reason one business will fail and another will not during this pandemic.

Moving forward, we predict that accountants and accountancy firms will start focussing a lot more on their clients’ cash flow as well as putting attention on financial forecasting and advisory services.

The importance of cash flow will have been driven home forcefully to many accountants as they watched powerlessly while some of their clients inevitably drowned in the flood of lockdowns and increased restrictions. Without cash, there is only so much a financial scheme from the government can do to keep one afloat.

A new age in accountancy

We Run Your Practice’s entire business model is built on the very elements required for businesses to survive the pandemic — remote working, cloud software, reduced costs and optimised efficiency.

Business Team

If you would like to find out how to move your accountancy practice out of old limitations and into a new age of accountancy, please download our free ebook.