It’s no secret that the public accounting busy season requires accounting professionals to spend around 60+ hours a week at work each year starting in January and going into April. But this is the norm for public accountants who learn to adjust their work-life balance and embrace the hectic pace of life during their firm’s peak time.
The good news is that most accounting firms work diligently to ensure their staff are taken care of during the long hours and late nights at work. With the 2018 busy season ending, we sat down with Julia Thompson-Calio, PHR, Senior HR Generalist at Baker Tilly to find out what Baker Tilly did for their staff during the 2018 busy season to help provide some relief for their staff.
Roger CPA Review: What are some of the fun activities Baker Tilly did for their staff during the 2018 busy season?
Julia Thompson-Calio: We have 35 offices across the US, and I can speak to the offices that I support in New Jersey and Philadelphia. At the beginning of busy season, every business unit at Baker Tilly puts together a champion team of accounting professionals who partner with human resources, leadership, firm partners, and our administrative team to determine which activities and events they want to initiate during busy season.
Busy season intersects with a few national holidays and events that our staff sometimes miss because of the extra hours they are required to work during this time. We try to bring the festivities into the office. A week or two before the Super Bowl, during the playoffs, the managing partner from the Minneapolis office challenged the managing partner in the Philadelphia office that whoever won the playoff game, the other office had to buy the winning office lunch for the entire staff. The Philadelphia Eagles ended up winning the playoff game, so the Minneapolis office bought the Philadelphia office lunch. Everyone wore their Eagles gear and it was a lot of fun. Other things we did for the holidays included giving everyone boxes of candy for Valentine’s Day; passing out cookies and smoothies on St. Patrick’s Day; and on opening day for baseball season, we all wore our baseball jerseys and had hotdogs and soft pretzels at the office.
It’s also important for our staff to feel supported by receiving opportunities to take breaks throughout the day. To incorporate that, many offices have “office Olympics” where a staff member can go into the conference room during a break and compete in small challenges, like putting a golf ball on a putting green or throwing a basketball in a hoop to see who can get the most baskets in a minute. Winners of these challenges get gift cards from the firm. We want to get our staff up and moving during the work day.
Studies have shown that people are more productive when they take breaks throughout the day, so we continually encourage that. We also focus a lot on health and wellness during busy season. We’ll offer chair massages, yoga or have nutritionists come into the office to discuss ways to eat healthy and provide recipes to prepare quick meals when you don’t have much time.
RCPAR: Why do you think it’s important to take these extra steps in keeping your staff healthy and happy during busy season?
JT: Our firm acknowledges that our professional accounting staff goes above and beyond during busy season. So, health and wellness is a priority within our firm. We promote taking breaks and encourage self-care, but this doesn’t change after busy season. We’ve found that if we don’t encourage our staff to get up and step away throughout the day, many will sit at their desks for hours, even working through lunch. That doesn’t help anyone. We want our staff to take the time to network with their colleagues, collaborating and creating comradery with their team members. A mental pause is extremely important, especially when you’re working on audit procedures, in technical programs or on tax returns. For our auditors who are in the field, sometimes a partner or senior manager will take the team out to dinner or bring dinner in for the staff, especially if they’re working late in the evenings.
In the summer, workloads are not as heavy and things slow down a bit, so we offer “summer Fridays” between Memorial Day and Labor Day and the office usually closes at 3:00 PM. The summer is really the time we can give back to our staff for all the hours they put in during traditional busy season.
RCPAR: What’s your advice to other firms on ways they can support their staff during the next busy season?
JT: I think it’s the responsibility of the leadership team to promote and prioritize supporting staff during this time of year. Our partners and managers support the events and activities we plan during busy season, which makes it easier to see them through to fruition. The champion team made up of our accounting professionals really help us by providing their feedback on what is and isn’t feasible to do for the staff during busy season. For instance, auditors are normally on a client’s site during the week, so they can’t participate in fun activities we have during the week. For our auditors, we try to do fun things on Saturdays. Planning our busy season events is really a collaborative process. We bring in people from different service teams and levels to help us plan all the activities.
With that being said, I’d like to give a special thanks to Julia Thompson-Calio for her time during busy season to bring us some insight about Baker Tilly and how they support their staff.
About Julia Thompson-Calio, PHR
Julia is the Sr. HR Generalist who supports the Pennsylvania and New Jersey Baker Tilly offices.
About Baker Tilly Virchow Krause, LLP (Baker Tilly)
Baker Tilly is a nationally recognized, full-service accounting and advisory firm whose specialized professionals connect with clients and their businesses through refreshing candor and clear industry insight. With approximately 2,700 employees across the United States, Baker Tilly is ranked as one of the 15 largest accounting and advisory firms in the country. Headquartered in Chicago, Baker Tilly is an independent member of Baker Tilly International, a worldwide network of independent accounting and business advisory firms in 147 territories, with 33,600 professionals. The combined worldwide revenue of independent member firms is $3.4 billion.