Many accountancy firms have now implemented WFH, some better than others, but even the better prepared ones are in uncharted territory.
We wrote two weeks ago that many accountants and their staff are on a steep learning curve discovering what it’s like to work from home. Now it’s time to revisit the question and see what particular firms are doing. Email and tell me what you are doing, in particular, at email@example.com. I would love to hear from you.
Ten Top Tips:
Here are our ten tips, based on research in the last two weeks, from our contact with accountants in practice. Here we go:
- Organise virtual coffee meetings, where at a certain point in the day, staff get together virtually, to chat as if they were at the office water fountain. This can include Team building – where Partners/Managers make a priority to have regular virtual conversations that are not always about work. Partners/Managers make time to check in on staff just to see how they are mentally and physically – we need our people in good shape when they return to office working;
- Separate work from home – for some, this could be the first time that they have worked in such an environment, one that will also have a unique level of anxiety and stress. As we said in our last blog, encourage them to avoid the trap of working longer hours and never really switching off when working from home; encourage staff to clear their work away to ensure client confidentiality and to take breaks between work time and home time;
- Keep communication lines open. There are video telephone tools like Zoom for external communications where participants can see each other and share screens, if necessary. A trusted practitioner contact of ours recommends Slack, as an internal communication tool where staff can keep in touch, share queries, video/audio calls. It’s really easy to set up and staff need no training at all in how to use it, as its so simple and intuitive;
- Encourage staff to help others around them in a safe way (e.g. deliver groceries to socially cocooned neighbours);
- Ensure physical security and confidentiality, taking account of the potential lack of document printing/shredding facilities at home. In some circumstances printing may not be possible, especially with younger members of staff living in shared accommodation;
- Mental and physical wellbeing – this is the most important of all. Your employees are the firm’s greatest asset. Encourage staff to maintain proper sleep patterns, take fresh-air breaks during the day (as much as is legally allowed) and stay active.See this short video (8.5 minutes) on mental health from the popular UK Accountex speaker, Nick Elston on his blog 5 ways to work from home and manage anxiety. Nick gives some essential and comforting tips on navigating this difficult situation. Check it out, here.
- IT – ensure everyone has the right equipment, their connections operate effectively and know how to log into the firm’s system in a secure fashion. Remind staff about the safe storage/destruction of any paper documents created at home;
- Create a second laptop screen at home with Duet for your IOS or Android devices – Thanks to Sean O’Rourke in Killarney for this tip;
- Business Continuity – Update the Practice Business Continuity Plan for the current environment and for likely developments over the next three, six, twelve and eighteen months ahead;
- Communication – Above all, clear and frequent communication is key to this process. Provide daily updates, with clear, relevant information and all necessary links to external websites and other sources of information. create a forum where staff can freely ask questions.
And finally you have to have a laugh sometimes – from my colleague Mark Lee Funny Tips for Accountants Working from Home.