Accountemps Monthly Newsletter–May

10 Cities Where It Pays to Be a Payroll Manager

“The demand for payroll professionals — especially managers — is the highest I’ve seen it in the better part of a decade,” says Carlie Boese, branch manager for Accountemps in Greeneville, South Carolina.

And high demand for the role doesn’t stop there. Her statements are echoed across the country:

“Payroll is currently one of the most in-demand skillsets in the Phoenix market,” says Courtney Angelo, senior staffing executive for Accountemps in Phoenix. “Job openings for payroll managers outnumber candidates 10 to 1!”

San Francisco has similar needs, according to Scott Dicke, director of permanent placement services for Robert Half there. “Payroll manager sees some of the highest demand among the positions we place,” he says. “And the scarcity of skilled candidates makes it one of the most difficult positions for us to staff.”

Hop over to New York City, and you’ll find a demand that Joseph Avignone describes as “very high.” He adds, “We’re working on several payroll manager placements right now and typically do so on a consistent basis.”

Such high demand in diverse places makes sense when you consider the number of businesses around the country that need experienced payroll managers. No matter the industry or region, it’s a role many companies can’t do without. The job may transcend geography, but not every city pays the same for the position.

Salaries vary from city to city

Location has a large impact on your paycheck. For example, a payroll manager in San Francisco can expect a midpoint starting salary of almost $100,000 per year. The same job in El Paso, Texas, will get you $51,120 — almost 50 percent less.

The 2018 Robert Half Salary Guide for Accounting and Finance and Salary Calculator reveal the 10 cities with the highest starting salaries for a payroll manager:

  1. New York — $99,755
  2. San Francisco — $99,400
  3. San Jose, Calif. — $97,625
  4. Boston — $95,140
  5. Washington, D.C. — $94,430
  6. Los Angeles — $93,010
  7. Stamford, Conn. — $93,010
  8. San Rafael, Calif. — $92,300
  9. Irvine, Calif. — $92,300
  10. Oakland, Calif. — $91,945

So, should you pack your bags and go in search of your fortune on the East or West Coast? Even if you’re more than happy to relocate for a job, there’s more than salary to consider.

Different cities offer different advantages, so Robert Half’s Career City Index analyzed 25 major metro areas, looking at key factors to determine what makes a good place for living and working.

Payroll manager job opportunities

To be as accurate as possible, the Career City Index puts a heavy weight on an area’s career prospects. This category ranks three main points: the city’s unemployment rate, GDP per capita and the educational background of its workforce. These metro areas placed highest:

  1. San Francisco Bay Area
  2. Seattle
  3. Washington, D.C.
  4. Boston
  5. Salt Lake City

Cost of living

A high salary can quickly get eaten up by housing costs, taxes, utilities, groceries, transportation and more. Even in a city like San Francisco, where demand and salaries are high, the area’s notoriously high living expenses might make some payroll professionals think twice about setting up shop there. That’s why the Career City Index weights cost of living the same as career prospects. The top five cities in the index are:

  1. Seattle
  2. Indianapolis
  3. Houston
  4. Dallas
  5. Salt Lake City

Quality of life

Overall quality of life is difficult to measure, partly because it can be very subjective. Ample green spaces might be important to some people, while others may put a heavier emphasis on weather. Factoring in the quality of education, healthcare and transportation, the index found that the following cities are tops for quality of life in the U.S.:

  1. Phoenix
  2. Boston
  3. Cincinnati
  4. New York
  5. Raleigh, N.C.

Putting it all together

Accounting for the various factors in the Career City Index, here are the overall rankings, along with the midpoint starting salary for a payroll manager or payroll supervisor in each area:

  1. Seattle — $85,910
  2. Boston — $95,140
  3. San Francisco — $99,400
  4. Washington, D.C. — $94,430
  5. Raleigh, N.C. — $73,840
  6. Dallas — $78,100
  7. Salt Lake City — $74,550
  8. Denver — $77,390
  9. Houston — $75,970
  10. Des Moines, Iowa — $71,000

Of course, these lists serve primarily as general guides, as circumstances and preferences for every person are different. But with demand for payroll managers so high in every corner of the country, now is a great time to seek the best place for your payroll career.

Accountemps, a Robert Half company, is the world’s first and largest specialized staffing firm for temporary accounting, finance and bookkeeping professionals. Accountemps has 300 locations worldwide. More resources, including job search services and the Accountemps blog, can be found at


Accountemps Monthly Newsletter–March

How to Get Back to Work After an Extended Leave

Payroll specialists take leaves of absence for various reasons — raising young children, caring for aging parents or going back to school, for example. If you’re one of many professionals who has taken such an off-ramp, it’s natural to have questions and even some anxiety about getting back into the swing of a full-time job — not to mention finding new employment.

The good news is that, unlike a decade ago, the job market for payroll professionals has been thriving the last few years and shows no signs of stopping. Demand is still high as companies grow and seek more skilled employees to administer payroll, handle reimbursements and withholdings, generate reports, and help maintain compliance.

At the same time, it’s normal to feel hesitant about diving back in. Is your skill set out of date? How do you talk with potential employers about your time away? Does anyone even want to hire you when you’ve been out of the game? Spoiler alert: They do. And these seven tips can help you successfully restart your payroll career:

1. Rediscover the requirements for payroll jobs. If you’ve been away for a year or more, be prepared for significant shifts in accounting technology when you return to work. The essentials of the position remain more or less the same, but the tools are continually upgraded. Cloud-based platforms are the norm now, including QuickBooks, ADP, Paylocity and Workday. Excel still reigns for spreadsheets, although many companies have moved away from desktop versions and use cloud-based Office 365. To see what other new software employers are using, peruse job postings. Then study up so you can talk about them in an informed manner.

2. Get up to speed on legislation. Tax codes and payroll-related compliance requirements change every year. Catch up by reading trade magazines, industry blogs and payroll newsletters. If you’ve let your membership in a professional associations lapse, rejoin so you can access their informative articles, webinars, courses and conferences.

3. Take advantage of LinkedIn. Reconnect with former colleagues and letting them know you’re re-entering job market. Be sure to update your social media profile and work history. As you re-establish relationships, ask trusted acquaintances for endorsements and recommendations. Boost your reputation by joining groups and participating in online discussions. The more visible you are, the easier it is for recruiters and prospective employers to find you.

4. Revamp your resume. If it’s been a long time since you’ve been working, you may wonder what your accounting resume should look like. Make sure it’s is written for applicant tracking systems (ATS) as well as human readers. This means rather than having one generic resume, you need to customize it for each position. Scan the job post for keywords and use them organically in your application materials to maximize search-friendly language and terminology. For example, “payroll hotshot” doesn’t mean much to talent management software, but “ADP specialist” and “multi-state and Canada experience” does.

5. Include non-paid work experience. Some hiring managers see gaps in employment history as a red flag. To lessen that kind of impact over an extended leave of absence, list volunteer work that shines a spotlight on your accounting skills, organizational abilities or leadership traits. These could include heading up a community fundraiser or serving as treasurer for a parent-teacher organization.

6. Focus on your added value. Prospective employers don’t want a long-winded justification about why you off-ramped. They want to know that you can handle the demands of the job. So whether you’re writing a cover letter or interviewing for a position, address your time away head-on — but don’t dwell on it. Keep the focus on how you’ve stayed active professionally, how you’ve kept current with regulations and industry software, and why you’re the best person for the job.

7. Go back gradually. Consider easing back into the workforce with temporary or part-time jobs. Besides offering greater flexibility, working as a temp allows you to re-acclimate after a long hiatus.

Let’s say you were a payroll administrator but quit your job five years ago to raise a child. To ramp back up, you could accept a few short-term assignments through a specialized staffing agency like Robert Half. This approach allows you to learn the latest software and get up to speed on legislation, all while sampling various industries. What’s more, a significant percentage of contract work results in an offer for full-time employment.

The bottom line is that if you take the time to do ample research, upgrade your resume and spruce up your social media presence, you’ll clear most obstacles to your transition back to work. Then you can get ready for the next chapter in your payroll career.

Accountemps, a Robert Half company, is the world’s first and largest specialized staffing firm for temporary accounting, finance and bookkeeping professionals. Accountemps has 300 locations worldwide. More resources, including job search services and the Accountemps blog, can be found at

Accountemps Monthly Newsletter – February

7 Best Practices for Finding the Best Payroll Professionals

It’s no secret that staffing can be a struggle for financial managers, whether it becomes necessary as a business grows or after a job vacancy. As you examine your company’s payroll process, from tax payments to paycheck withholdings, along with today’s hiring challenges, you may realize you need help building a team of payroll professionals.

From writing job descriptions to filtering applicants, to interviewing and hiring, obtaining skilled workers is not for the faint of heart. One of the best recruiting strategies is to work with a specialized staffing agency.

Here are seven best practices to follow — and that agencies can assist with — when bringing on operational support staff, including payroll professionals.

1. Cast a wide net for payroll professionals

It’s no longer enough to just upload the listing to a job board and wait for applications to roll in. In a job market rife with opportunities for candidates, you should take a multipronged approach, including advertising the position on social media accounts and encouraging followers to share the post. If you’re working with a staffing agency, you’ll gain access to a network of payroll job seekers. Recruiters can also spread the message via their own social media feeds.

2. Use marketing to sell your company

To stand out in a sea of postings, front-load your payroll job description with the many pluses of working for your organization. Include enticing nuggets like flexible scheduling, regular social events, wellness perks, opportunities for advancement, all part of your corporate culture. As today’s professionals — especially millennials — seek meaningful work that makes a difference, play up your company’s community involvement.

3. Accelerate the hiring process

It can be daunting when you’re already balancing this with your day-to-day work, but speeding up your hiring process helps ensure you have your pick among the top candidates available in your area. Update your job posting to weed out unqualified applicants. Streamline interviews by having candidates meet only with essential personnel. Cut out a round of interviews, where possible. Recruiters can also shoulder a lot of the burden for you. While they can’t do everything, they can get moving right away and seriously reduce your legwork.

4. Outsource the screening

As any manager knows, a substantial number of job applications simply don’t make the cut. Then there are those candidates who look great on paper, but you soon discover they’ve embellished their skills and credentials. You can save time and all these headaches by using a specialized recruiter who handles much of the initial evaluation so you can meet with a handful of fully vetted candidates and pick the best fit.

5. Prioritize people skills

Aside from seeking out job candidates who understand payroll software and the latest compliance requirements, you should pay particular attention to their soft skills — the ability to soothe ruffled feathers and quickly resolve payroll issues. While communication and interpersonal skills can be taught, they’re often more difficult to develop than technical know-how. When meeting with potential hires, be sure to ask how they’ve dealt with angry customers or recovered from a mistake. Ask insightful situational and behavioral interview questions specific to payroll functions.

6. Be flexible with your hiring needs

Have you considered a temp-to-hire strategy for your company? There are alternatives to hiring full-time employees, and staffing agencies are well-versed in assessing your needs and providing a solution that’s right for you. If you want to focus on getting the work done and you’re not sure you need someone full time, you might find a temporary worker is your best bet.

7. Keep them happy on the job

After landing someone great, whether temporary or full time, don’t simply rest on your laurels. Focus on keeping them engaged and acknowledging their work. Robert Half’s study on workplace happiness finds that among the accounting professionals surveyed, the top driver of professional contentment was feeling appreciated.

As many payroll specialists realize, this work is largely unrecognized. Because your staff likely won’t receive many kudos from fellow employees, it’s up to management to boost morale. Even simple verbal praise, in private or in public, can go a long way in making a worker feel happy on the job — especially one you recently recruited to join the team.

Accountemps, a Robert Half company, is the world’s first and largest specialized staffing firm for temporary accounting, finance and bookkeeping professionals. Accountemps has 300 locations worldwide. More resources, including job search services and the Accountemps blog, can be found at

Accountemps Monthly Newsletter – December

6 Ways Payroll Managers Increase Motivation in the Workplace

Payroll doesn’t really have a quiet season. It just has different levels of busy. Some periods are certainly more hectic than others, and year end — with closing running up against holiday scheduling — is certainly one of those times that can have a detrimental effect on motivation in the workplace.

As a payroll manager, you can make your team’s job easier — as well as your own — by checking in regularly to ask about their workload and any problems or frustrations they may be encountering. Stressed workers are more likely to make mistakes — and incur costly penalties — than ones who are happy with their job.

No, you can’t remove every stress factor, but here are six ways you can help increase their motivation in the workplace.

1. Recognize hard work

If your payroll staff has been putting in extra hours to get through a busy period, they deserve some recognition. The gesture can be simple, like calling out a worker’s exemplary behavior in an all-team email, or buying bagels or doughnuts for everyone. For people who have gone above and beyond, such as coming in on a weekend to complete data migration or wrap up financial reporting, thank them with a gift card or an extra vacation day.

Robert Half’s report on workplace happiness shows one of the key drivers of job satisfaction for finance and accounting professionals is feeling appreciated for the work they do. To help workers stay motivated, be sure to make your efforts are specific, timely and sincere.

2. Customize your feedback

Your employees are individuals who want to know how they’re doing and where they can improve. But you need to fine-tune the amount of feedback you give them: Too little, and some might feel neglected. Too much, and others will feel smothered. Many Generation Z employees, for example, expect consistent and frequent comments from their boss. On the other hand, your boomer payroll workers may see regular feedback as meddling micromanaging. Work with each person to find that just-right level of boss-to-employee communication.

3. Engage in training and development

Professional development and training are essential for broadening your workers’ skills base. What’s more, when you invest in them, they return that investment with greater loyalty and engagement. Training often gets pushed to the back burner when things become manic, but don’t let busyness get in the way. Besides, who doesn’t welcome a little break from their daily tasks?

A common form of professional development is the brown bag lunch session, where attendees bring their own food and management supplies the guest speaker. For an extra treat, order pizza or box lunches for the whole gang. When there’s more time, plan for job rotation or job shadowing to promote a transfer of skills between team members. Payroll conferences are a great way for your staff to learn from industry leaders and their peers from around the country.

4. Present staff with interesting projects

Do you know how to motivate people who are frequently engaged in repetitive work? One way is with cool projects that stretch their talents and shake up the routine. For example, ask the group to list some payroll pain points, and then brainstorm solutions together. These could include reducing the error rate, moving toward paperless onboarding and improving payroll-related communication with company employees. By working on creative solutions together, you build a tighter team and empower staff to take ownership of their work.

5. Give the gift of time

During the busy season, you expect a certain amount of flexibility and extra time from your staff. During quieter periods, show that you’re equally flexible by allowing extra perks, such as flexible scheduling and additional work-from-home days. This is especially useful during the holidays, when employees are trying to balance their workload with the need to run errands and visit family. Being treated with fairness is another key driver of workplace happiness, and respecting your team’s work-life balance can really help boost staff engagement.

6. Bring in extra help

Even the best payroll employees can mentally check out when they’re stressed and tired. This is especially true around the holidays, when so many other responsibilities compete for their attention. As you anticipate the department’s long to-do list for year-end closing and tax-related paperwork, make sure you’re adequately staffed. If not, work with a staffing agency that specializes in accounting professionals to access interim payroll specialists. You can boost staff motivation by making sure your full-time employees aren’t overworked and can enjoy the season.

Employee engagement isn’t just some touchy-feely concept that you can leave or take. Helping your team stay motivated has net benefits all around: It’s good for staff, good for management and, ultimately, good for the bottom line.

Accountemps, a Robert Half company, is the world’s first and largest specialized staffing firm for temporary accounting, finance and bookkeeping professionals. Accountemps has 325 locations worldwide. More resources, including job search services and the Accountemps blog, can be found at

Accountemps Monthly Newsletter – November

5 of the Best Personality Traits to Get That Payroll Job

Applying for a job is a lot like putting yourself out there on dating apps like Tinder. When hiring managers interview applicants, it takes but a few minutes for them to decide whether to swipe right or swipe left. And like dating, prospective employers are looking at everything you’d bring to the payroll position they have open, including your best personality traits.
To land a great job, give interviewers a strong impression of who you are and how your temperament will be an asset to the payroll department. Here are the five types of payroll professionals businesses want to hire:
1. Communicators
These professionals are experts when it comes to the soft skills of tact, diplomacy, empathy and both written and verbal communication. They make friends easily, including with people outside of finance, which helps to improve interdepartmental collaboration. Communicators are especially good candidates for management positions.
Most interviewers will talk about soft skills, asking behavioral questions such as, “Tell me about a time when you’ve had a difficult conversation with a colleague.” When responding, demonstrate your intuitive understanding of people and that you know how to get your message across. Don’t forget to mention the importance of listening to others as one of the best personality traits a person can have.
2. Self-starters
Some people need constant guidance, but not self-starters. They have an innate sense of what needs to be done and how to get the job done right. These personality types enjoy working alone, but in a team environment, their energy motivates others. Payroll managers like self-starters, as these workers don’t require a lot of hand holding.
To emphasize this aspect of your personality, focus on projects you’ve initiated, such as researching payroll systems and choosing the best one for your company. Problem solving is an essential element of being a self-starter, so relate anecdotes that begin with a predicament and end with the successful implementation of your solution.
3. Explorers
Explorers are curious about everything. They are the first to embrace change and new platforms, and quickly find innovative and more efficient ways of completing tasks. As more payroll systems move to the cloud, these are the ones who help guide coworkers and other users.
During interviews for payroll positions, explorers easily demonstrate their comfort level with new technology. But a grasp of IT is only one aspect of this personality. They have an equal level of understanding of the most current legislation regarding tax rates, withholdings and compliance requirements. When talking about yourself, mention all the ways you keep up with industry trends, such as the blogs you read, the newsletters you subscribe to and the training you seek out for yourself.
4. Perfectionists
These payroll employees have an eagle eye. They recognize discrepancies from a mile away and pride themselves on a near-zero error rate. They’re careful and talented, but also efficient with their time. When a perfectionist is on the team, managers don’t have to worry about anything falling through the cracks.
Attention to detail is one of those best personality traits for any payroll professional, but perfectionists go one step further. When meeting with prospective employers, talk about your near obsession with getting things just right. Back up your assertions with real-life examples, such as when you caught an error that saved the department countless hours of grief from underpaid employees. If you don’t have such a story, that’s okay. Talk about the common payroll mistakes you keep an eye out for, or your methodology for double-checking data entries.
5. Moral guides
If you have a strong sense of right and wrong, you might be a moral guide. These employees hate to see people treated unfairly, which makes them good at resolving disputes and customer service complaints. They abide by the rules and watch out for dubious practices. At the same time, they have a good sense of empathy and understand the importance of being flexible. These employees are vital for the smooth running of any payroll department.
Confidentiality is essential in payroll, where employees have access to so much privileged data. A large part of navigating ethics involves understanding the rules, so demonstrate your mastery of issues such as data protection and compliance requirements during interviews.
Whatever attribute you emphasize in the interview, the most important thing is to be honest. Don’t pretend to be someone you’re not, and be ready to talk in depth about any aspect of your personality. The most important personality trait at an interview is sincerity, and an experienced interviewer will quickly be able to tell if you’ve got it or not.
Accountemps, a Robert Half company, is the world’s first and largest specialized staffing firm for temporary accounting, finance and bookkeeping professionals. Accountemps has 325 locations worldwide. More resources, including job search services and the Accountemps blog, can be found at

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Accountemps Monthly Newsletter – September

Excel for Finance Professionals? Still King of the Spreadsheets

More than three decades after its debut — and despite the subsequent introduction of innumerable other accounting tools — Microsoft Excel is still the go-to software for most financial professionals across the globe. It was one of the earliest electronic spreadsheets, first developed for the Apple Macintosh in 1985. But it wasn’t until the release of Excel 2.0 for MS-DOS, on Halloween 1987, that the now-ubiquitous program really took off.

The 2017 Benchmarking the Accounting & Finance Function report, a joint effort of Robert Half and the Financial Executives Research Foundation (FERF), shows just how widely used this software is today. Of the U.S. executives surveyed, 69 percent said their company continues to use Excel as their primary budgeting and planning tool — up one point from last year’s survey. Among Canadian respondents, Excel enjoys even more popularity (78 percent). Smaller businesses find this software especially valuable: 78 percent of American and Canadian companies with annual revenue under $25 million rely on it, compared with 35 percent of those netting $5 billion or more.

The answer behind Excel’s continued dominance is threefold: affordability, simplicity and flexibility.

  • Low cost. An annual subscription to Office 365, which includes Excel, Word, Outlook, PowerPoint and two other applications, costs just $8.25 per month, and a single license covers five computers. The suite of software is still available for a one-time purchase, as in the good old days. The latest version, Office Home & Business 2016, costs $230 from the Microsoft Store but can be purchased for much less from other retailers.
  • Ease of use. The basic functions of Excel are mostly intuitive and simple to learn, and templates save time and effort. Take, for example, setting up a spreadsheet to track and update payroll. It’s as easy as opening one of Excel’s many native templates for payroll registers, calculators, timesheets and more. Another option is to use one of the dozens of Excel payroll templates offered by firms such as ADP, a major provider of HR services, or Vertex42, a company that specializes in spreadsheet templates. Once the spreadsheet is set up, all you have to do is enter the hours employees worked during the pay period (this process can be automated) and any changes in pay rate or deductions.
  • Effortless integration. As a part of a larger suite of applications, Excel works seamlessly with other Microsoft business tools for word processing, databases, presentations, graphic design and email. This means accounting and finance professionals don’t have to spend time converting or exporting files before using it with other software.

Limitations of Excel

Despite its popularity and numerous upgrades over the years, Excel is still rooted in the last century. It lacks some useful features that ease the load for accountants and payroll specialists. Collaboration is one such area. While the cloud-based Excel web app does allow multiple people to work on one spreadsheet simultaneously, it’s a bit clunky to use. The web version also doesn’t have all the advanced features of the desktop version.

Even though competitor Sheets doesn’t have all those advanced features either, the Google tool does have a nifty chat window and a robust comment feature. For truly seamless real-time collaboration on basic spreadsheets, especially with remote colleagues, Google Sheets is the clear winner.

Scalability is another issue for Excel, which is why the larger a company is, the more likely it is to use a budgeting and planning tool like Oracle Hyperion or SAP Business Planning and Consolidation (BPC). Although Excel’s capacity to handle large data sets has improved notably in the last few years, massive Excel files still severely drag down most computers.

Excel is good for basic graphing, but isn’t quite robust enough to customize and combine diverse data sets and graphs. For payroll professionals and accountants who frequently create complex charts and graphs, using Excel alone could mean wasted time. Better options for such power users are Google Sheets, Zoho Sheet, Numbers (Apple) and Corel Quattro Pro.

Long live the king

Excel has aged fairly well, unlike other similar software that arrived on the scene during the 1970s and ’80s. (Does anyone remember VisiCalc and Lotus 1-2-3?) For about 30 years, the granddaddy of spreadsheet programs has helped countless businesses keep track of payroll, inventory, budgets, expense reports, cash flow and accounts receivable/accounts payable. Excel has its limitations, but the multinational tech giant behind its development has the resources and resolve to keep it relevant and indispensable. That means this application is likely to remain the primary tool for payroll and accounting departments for many years to come.

Accountemps, a Robert Half company, is the world’s first and largest specialized staffing firm for temporary accounting, finance and bookkeeping professionals. Accountemps has 325 locations worldwide. More resources, including job search services and the Accountemps blog, can be found at

Accountemps Monthly Newsletter – August

How to Organize Your Desk for Maximum Efficiency

Your desk is often a reflection of your personality and habits. Some workspaces of finance and accounting professionals are sparse and orderly. Others are colorful and personalized. Then there are those cubicles that are so cluttered, you wonder how any work can get done there. Organize your desk? Bring in a forklift!

Regardless of your preferences or inclinations, your workstation should be set up for maximum efficiency, productivity and, yes, comfort. After all, whether you’re a payroll clerk or a finance manager, you may spend more time at your desk than you do in your own bed.

If you’re frequently overwhelmed by disorderly files, stacks of paperwork and general disarray, the slower summer months offer the ideal time to do something about it. Here are eight suggestions for how to organize your desk

  1. Triage your stuff. Your physical desktop is prime real estate, and you probably don’t need half the stuff that’s taking up valuable space. Here’s a method for culling your things: On Monday morning, remove nonessential items from your desktop and put them on the floor. As you get busy working, put back on your desk only what you need for completing each task. At the end of the week, find a new home for anything still on the floor —a drawer, supply closet or even the recycling bin.

  2. Go with your workflow. Many people have a left-to-right tendency. This means incoming items — telephone, inbox, computer, other devices — on the left, a clear workspace in the middle, and outgoing items such as staplers and completed paperwork on the right. The best way to organize your desk depends on how you operate. Experiment with various arrangements until you find one that feels natural and streamlined for you.

  3. Save the space. When you need to sign or spread out paperwork but don’t have empty space, your stress level can increase. Designate a section of your desk as a no-parking zone, and get into the habit of not letting things sit there while you aren’t working on them. This clean-up tip may require you to think vertically, such as getting a wall shelf and using it to house non-essential files and other items.

  1. Reduce visual clutter. Even if the desktop itself is orderly, you may not be as efficient as you want to be if there are too many things competing for your attention. For example, some payroll professionals love sticky notes, putting them on their desks and around their computer monitors. One or two are fine. But when you have too many, they become a distraction and make it hard to concentrate on what’s truly important.

  1. Add a personal touch. Though clean, your workspace need not be sterile. Marie Kondo, author of “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up,” is a fan of items that give people joy. Put a few meaningful objects — photos, cartoons, inspirational quotes or a favorite action figurine — on your wall, bulletin board or desktop. But keep them to a minimum, or else your desk will look too messy and possibly unprofessional.

  2. Go digital. Paper is still the biggest culprit of cluttered workspaces. If you haven’t done so already, migrate your calendar, to-do list and memo pad to your computer — and sync them with your smartphone for greater accessibility and utility. The beauty of digital productivity tools is that they come with notification options, so you can set up alerts for meetings, appointments and tasks.

  3. Check under your desk. Don’t underestimate the importance of leg room. All those cords and cables under your desk don’t just contribute to the mayhem — they’re also a safety hazard. Use Velcro wraps and cord tamers to prevent tangles and give your feet more wiggle room. And if you’re using the floor to store boxes of timecards or W-4 forms, move them to a filing cabinet or, better yet, digitize them and shred the papers.

  1. Wipe it down. Keep a few supplies handy and get into the habit of giving your desk, keyboard, monitor and phone regular cleanings. Sitting down to a fresh-smelling, dust-free work area improves your mood and boosts your productivity.

An organized workspace is not a magical time saver, but it helps you get more done because you know where everything is, aren’t overwhelmed by visual distraction and can focus on the task at hand. Plus, an organized desk helps create positive mental energy that can spread to your enthusiasm for your daily duties.

Accountemps, a Robert Half company, is the world’s first and largest specialized staffing firm for temporary accounting, finance and bookkeeping professionals. Accountemps has 325 locations worldwide. More resources, including job search services and the Accountemps blog, can be found at

Accountemps Monthly Newsletter – July

The 7 Things You Should Do After Accepting a Job Offer

Congratulations on landing that payroll job or accounting role you’ve been after. First, pat yourself on the back for a job well done, and uncork the champagne. But after that, it’s not just a matter of waiting for your start date. Here are seven steps you should take after accepting a job offer and before your first day at your new job.

1. Get written confirmation

After you accept the offer by phone, it’s standard practice for employers to follow up with a formal written agreement. It should include your job description, starting salary, list of benefits, terms of employment and official start date. Wait until you have this letter or email in hand before taking any next steps. Until you receive that document, you don’t have a concrete job offer.

2. Notify your boss

If you’re employed, you’ll need to formally quit your current job. It’s good form to tell your manager in person and agree on a termination date — usually two weeks from the day you announce your resignation. Then submit a formal resignation letter, making sure to give one copy to your boss and another to the appropriate person in the human resources department.

Note: Management dislikes disruptions in workflow and having to restart the hiring process, so you may get you a counteroffer of a higher salary or sweeter perks. Resist the temptation to accept. Remember all the reasons you looked for a new job in the first place. Besides, it’s highly unprofessional to accept a job offer and then back out later.

3. Cultivate your network

You’re headed for new pastures, but keep nurturing the relationships you’ve built over the years. Your soon-to-be former boss and coworkers are an important part of your professional network. Even if you’ve had conflicts with them in the past, your last two weeks on the job are the time to put all that aside. Add them as LinkedIn connections. Get their personal email addresses. Go out to lunch one last time. Who knows? You may one day find yourself becoming a boomerang employee, going back to your old employer.

4. Facilitate handovers

It’s basic professional courtesy to help out during the transition period, either by training your replacement or writing detailed instructions for a future new hire. Leave your electronic and paper files in good order. Now is also a good time to give your desk a thorough decluttering and cleaning.

5. Stay in touch with your new manager

Your formal acceptance letter should not be the last time your soon-to-be boss hears from you before your first day on the job. They should be reaching out to you about paperwork or other details. If there’s silence, don’t be shy about making the first step.

6. Read up on your new employer

You most likely researched the company before applying and interviewing. This two-week period is not the time to stop. If you haven’t done so already, create a Google News Alert for the employer, and follow the company on social media. Subscribe to its blog to keep up with news and press releases. If the company website has staff photos and biographies, start memorizing faces and names.

7. Get a head start on the job

Even if you’re just making a lateral move, no two positions are the same. You may have to supervise staff, learn new business software or become familiar with another state’s tax codes. Your first few weeks will be easier if you take the time now to watch a webinar or work through an online tutorial or read a book on effective leadership.

There’s much to do after you accept a job offer, so don’t rest on your laurels and coast during your final two weeks at your old workplace. Make the most of this time to create a smooth transition and prepare for the next exciting chapter of your payroll career.

Accountemps, a Robert Half company, is the world’s first and largest specialized staffing firm for temporary accounting, finance and bookkeeping professionals. Accountemps has 325 locations worldwide. More resources, including job search services and the Accountemps blog, can be found at

Accountemps Monthly Newsletter – June

How to Find the Best Workplace for Your Payroll Career

Happy worker at his desk

Finding a new payroll job is not unlike dating. To make the relationship work, you and your new company should be well matched in areas such as style and personality. Whether you’re an active or passive job candidate, here are seven factors to look for when assessing potential employers and planning your next steps in your payroll career:

1. An engaged communication style

If you’ve ever worked for a company where information seldom trickles down to the staff level, you understand how frustrating a poor or nonexistent communication style can be. When evaluating potential workplaces, note how responsive they are to your messages. Do you have to wait days or weeks to hear back, or do your emails and phone calls get returned within a few hours? How’s their tone — curt and hurried, or friendly and respectful? An organization’s poor communication style can lead to low morale among staff and a high turnover rate.

2. A good work-life balance

To attract top talent, companies are offering an assortment of perks that encourage employees to take care of themselves and spend more time with their families. And that makes perfect sense: The happier workers are, the more productive, creative and loyal they’re likely to be. As you research potential workplaces, take a good look at their job postings and website. Are they proud of their generous vacation policy and flexible scheduling? During the interview, ask hiring managers how the company helps employees balance work and personal life with policies such as telecommuting and flextime.

3. The right opportunities

You want to be part of an organization that will invest in your future as a payroll professional. When speaking with hiring managers, ask what they offer in terms of professional training. Do they help pay for certification exams and payroll association fees? Will they allow you to take continuing professional education (CPE) courses on company time? Do they provide mentoring opportunities? Employers that value their workers typically put strong emphasis on professional development.

4. A suitable city

Sometimes landing a top payroll job requires moving to another area. Finding the right city depends on your priorities. To help you weigh your options, Robert Half has put together a comprehensive list of all U.S. major cities — ranked by factors such as career prospects, quality of life, cost of living and cultural diversity. If you’re in a position to relocate, doing so could give your professional and personal life a boost.

5. A compatible culture

Do you like fast-paced and challenging assignments, or do you prefer predictable and steady work? Is your preference to hang out after hours with colleagues, or are you more comfortable with well-defined professional boundaries? The best workplace is the one where you can feel at home each day, and where you’re a respected part of the team.

6. Similar values

Robert Half’s recent study on working happy finds that organizational pride is one of the most powerful drivers of job satisfaction. People feel good about their role when they believe in what their employer is doing, such as improving the lives of their customers and making their community a better place. If you don’t believe in the mission of your company, you will have a hard time supporting it with your best efforts.

7. Above-average wages

Of course, money can’t buy happiness, but not having enough leads to stress, disgruntlement and eventually your departure for greener pastures. The best workplace for your payroll career is one that recognizes your payroll skills and compensates you fairly for it. Check out our Salary Guide and Salary Calculator for starting salaries in various payroll positions. Then don’t be afraid to negotiate your starting salary.

The job market is healthy for payroll professionals, so you can afford to be selective about your next employer. Don’t settle for so-so when you can land the job — and workplace — of your choice.

Accountemps, a Robert Half company, is the world’s first and largest specialized staffing firm for temporary accounting, finance and bookkeeping professionals. Accountemps has more than 325 locations worldwide. More resources, including job search services and the Accountemps blog, can be found at

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Accountemps Monthly Newsletter – May

5 Ways to Beat Stress in the Payroll Department

Man feeling stress at workIf the pressure of your payroll job is weighing you down, and you’re not sure how to deal with stress at work, you’re in good company. In a recent Accountemps study, 52 percent of workers polled said they are somewhat or very stressed at work. Additionally, 60 percent feel employee stress has increased over the past five years.

Workplace stress is bad for your productivity, personal happiness, and physical and mental health. But payroll never ends, and it seems that every payday results in at least a few people upset about their withholdings. The good news is you can better manage your anxiety level. If you want to know how to deal with stress at work, here are five ways to reclaim your inner peace.

1. Amp up your physical activity

Exercise can feel like torture when you’re in it, but its stress-relieving effects stay with you long after your workout. For one, it increases blood flow to your brain, improving memory and helping you process information better. According to the Mayo Clinic, working out also combats depression by increasing the amount of endorphins (aka “feel-good” neurotransmitters) you produce. Happiness and health go hand in hand.

So make exercise a regular part of your life. Opt for public transportation rather than driving. Jog up the stairs in your workplace instead of waiting for the elevator. Take a lunch-time yoga or tai chi class to reduce stress and learn to let go. And rather than surfing the web during breaks, head outside for a brisk walk. Before you know it, your workplace anxiety — and maybe even your weight — will drop.

2. Learn to unplug

Because people need to get paid every two weeks or every month, it’s understandable why payroll specialists are reluctant to get away for an extended period. In another Accountemps survey, 41 percent of workers polled said they didn’t take any or all of their vacation days because they’re concerned about coming back to a pile of work. Another 35 percent said they didn’t want others to have to manage their workloads.

It’s one thing to be a dedicated employee, but quite another to jeopardize your mental health. Vacation time exists because you need and deserve that time away to relax and recharge. So go ahead and schedule that week-long break — no guilt or work emails allowed. Ask colleagues to cover for you, and return the favor when it’s their turn to get away. Be sure to create an out-of-office message so you aren’t overwhelmed by an overflowing inbox when you return to work.

3. Practice single-tasking

Recent research suggests multitasking is out because it hurts your health and productivity. But mindfulness, the act of focusing on the present, is in. Embrace being in the moment by not getting distracted by another task or problem. When analyzing data or compiling a report, concentrate on the content and not what else you have to do. During meetings, pay attention to the speaker rather than checking your messages. Control your environment so as to reduce distractions. Do you really need to be notified of every email that hits your inbox? The better you are at monotasking — a basic time management technique — the more efficiently you can finish your work.

4. Indulge in outside interests

Here’s a question to ask yourself: Are you letting work creep into your personal life? If you’re still toiling away during evenings and weekends, it’s time to draw some boundaries and work on a pet project. Some excellent choices include those that require you to focus, such as baking, gardening, woodworking or playing an instrument. Or give back to the community by volunteering your skills for a worthy cause. Having non-work interests gives you something to look forward to and provides another means of relaxation.

5. Make some changes

Naturally, peak periods like year-end processing and reporting deadlines are stressful. But if your anxiety level is high all year long, take a good look at your work environment and consider whether it’s time to start a job search. There’s no easy way of coping with bad management, a toxic workplace or an office bully. In these situations, you could relieve the stress by finding another employer. While it’s true that a job change is stressful as well, the peace of mind might be well worth the effort.

While no payroll job is 100 percent stress-free, there’s no need for work-related worries to take over your life and harm your health. Workplace happiness is within your reach and control.

More tips for how to deal with stress at work

Tags: Stress