Taking a vacation this time of year may as well be considered illegal.
Even the smallest CPA firms usually have some kind of unwritten policy that tax season and recreation do not coexist. Not only must employees refrain from leisure, but most can’t even take lunch breaks and are required to work weekends.
No one’s going to throw them a pity party. They knew what they were signing up for, it comes with the territory. Anyone who’s ever had an accountant in the family or for a friend knows better than to invite them out in March or April.
My mother has worked for accounting firms since before I was a teenager. Every tax season, she would spend Sundays -- her one day off -- preparing enough food to get us through the week and provide me with instructions on how to “cook” or -- more accurately -- reheat dinner each night so my brother and I could eat something nourishing before she returned home at 9 or 10 p.m.
Aside from not spending mealtime with her children, she’s also an Aries, meaning her birthday falls smack in the middle of the craziness. Yet her boss, Harvey, at the Jericho, N.Y., firm where she’s worked for the last dozen years, still takes the time to order her a cake and admire the festive turtleneck she’s prone to wearing.
It may sound like a small reward, but it’s something she appreciates and that likely has contributed to her commitment to him. It shows that he cares about his employees, and he doesn’t only demonstrate that compassion on birthdays. Every Saturday, management pays for lunch and the staff eats together, talking about sports, television shows or anything other than accounting.
“Lunch lasts less than 30 minutes, but we all go back feeling regenerated,” my mother told me. “Whatever you can do, no matter how small, to keep your employees happy will result in more team effort and greater productivity.”
Saturdays tend to be more productive in general because of fewer phone call interruptions and everyone seems to work better when dressed comfortably, so the firm allowed jeans and sneakers during the last final days of crunch time in previous years.
Her colleagues are not the only ones in the industry who are happier when well-fed and casually dressed.
Ezzie, a 23-year-old auditor at the Manhattan branch of a top accounting firm, shared his company’s policy on his blog.
“Accountants don’t get legal holidays between mid-January and April 30. We do get ‘pizza and jeans’ day, though …which meant that I got pizza, since I don’t own any jeans,” the 2006 Lander College for Men graduate wrote.
He might even buy a pair or two in preparation for next tax season.
Understandably, CPA firms want to appear professional and business attire helps create that image. Some employees are happy just not wearing a tie. But once in a while, on a Saturday, it couldn’t hurt to join the rest of corporate America.
Let your employees wear jeans. Let them be comfortable. Let them eat pizza.
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