There's a growing movement across professional industries touting the benefits of a 30-hour work week. But if you're like most tax firm owners, you're not quite on board yet because it seems like there's not enough time in the week to tackle all that needs to be done; the idea of losing time – let alone a full day each week – seems laughable.
Whether or not you'd ever consider an alternative work schedule, there's a lot of value in considering different ways you can coach your office to become more efficient. When you free your employees from repetitive administrative tasks to do more strategic work, it benefits morale, your customers, and, of course, your bottom line. You can then choose to do as you will with that extra time, whether that's a four-day work week or a mix of more time off and more client work.
Here are the top 10 ways we think companies can increase office efficiency and recapture more time during the week:
Effective communication is at the heart of office efficiency. After all, if employees can't communicate what needs to be done – or if poor communication confuses the message – it can derail all other office tasks. Consider these strategies for making sure team communication is as effective as possible:
Personality assessment tests for communication
It's a top priority to recruit and hire diverse team members, but employees that don't share a common background can often have challenges communicating at first. Help team members learn about each other and learn more effective and efficient ways of interacting by sponsoring a personality test for your team, like the Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) or the DiSC profile assessment.
Company surveys for engagement
For the majority of employees, feeling that their voice is being heard is a foundational building block of effective communication. If you don't have one in place already, use a service like Culture Amp or CultureIQ to implement a regular company survey so employees can regularly weigh in on how things are going and so you can proactively identify and improve trouble spots.
Set rules around email for productivity
A recent McKinsey & Company study revealed as much as 28% of an employee's time is spent managing email. Regain valuable time by freeing employees from the expectation of responding to emails immediately. Set specific times for checking and responding to emails throughout the day, such as 10 am and 3 pm, so employees don't feel chained to their inbox.
When in doubt, cancel the meeting
Meeting overload is a well-documented office phenomenon. For a quick boost of efficiency, ask employees to review their meeting calendars and cancel any meetings not deemed absolutely vital to workflow or client projects. You'll be surprised to learn how many meetings can be swapped out for a quick email, saving several hours per employee every week for more important tasks.
Apps and Technology
While technology can often be a source of frustration in traditional industries, there's no doubt today's tax firms can deploy apps and software to capitalize on incredible efficiencies. Here are a few of the most powerful and easy-to-use efficiencies you can deploy:
Time tracking apps for alignment
Like most tax firms, you rigorously track billable hours. Tracking time can provide a lot of insight on non-recorded, non-billable administrative tasks. It will help you and your team understand how they're spending their time. Consider using a tool like RescueTime or Harvest for a one-month period to get a sense of where the time goes, then evaluate the results to make sure they align with your top business priorities.
Document storage and signing for convenience
Advancements in digital document storage and signing have made online signing and storage no-brainers, so if you aren't already using resources like DocuSign or HelloSign, it's time to get started. Not only will you save time and money from not mailing forms back and forth, but you'll be able to quickly store and retrieve important documents from any computer or location.
Artificial intelligence (AI) for mundane and repetitive tasks
AI might seem way too technical for most tax firms, but there are many solutions coming to the market that make it easy for non-technical organizations to tap into the convenience and scalability of AI solutions. Big Four accounting firm EY has been using AI to investigate fraud and disputes for more than 10 years, as well as “code robots” to eliminate repetitive and mundane tasks.
Just as important as improving office efficiency is improving the efficiency of the service you deliver to your tax customers. Read on for four critical ways you can make it easier for your customers to work with you – and to send more work your way:
Providing a client portal for easy access
Your website is more than an online calling card for your business. Consider building a membership login side of your business where customers can log in to upload important tax documents, send messages, and check in on the progress of their tax filings and ongoing projects.
Online payments for B2B
Do you accept digital payment from your customers? If you're still stuck in the “check's in the mail” payment cycle, accepting online payment is a quick way to add efficiency for both your customers and your accounts receivable. Learn more about online payment leaders like PayPal Business, Intuit QuickBooks Payments, WePay, and Stripe, which allow a customer to pay with a bank account, a credit card, or an email address.
Artificial intelligence (AI) for around-the-clock customer inquiries
While you're testing out AI for your tax firm, consider installing an AI chatbot like Bold360 on your tax firm's homepage to field some new client inquiries 24/7 and take care of some initial client interaction while your staff focuses on active clients.
It's more important than ever to save time on administrative processes so you can use your time for more important and strategic purposes. Use this list of efficiencies to brainstorm ways your company can streamline processes, increase productivity, and save time.