360 Degrees: Your thoughts on the new world
Q. What steps are you taking to adjust to the new world, particularly in terms of the work from home requirements and increased pressure on accountants?
Kaleem Ulah, director, the Kalculators
These are unprecedented times. Accountants are as much at the frontline as health workers. We have seen an increasing inflow of clients as a result of the pandemic. They are confused about the different types of payments, eligibility criteria and payment time frames.
As accountants, we need to come out of our comfort zones and support our clients in need. We have introduced Zoom meetings with clients who are reluctant to visit the office. Digital and electronic signatures of compliance documents are also prevalent these days and setting up Online Client Portals has proved to be handy.
Now, we need to act and educate our clients – to do the right thing and abide by all rules and regulations.
Carolyn Geyer, principal, Geyer accountants
We all acknowledge that Covid-19 is a world disaster. No question.
However, it has certainly made us all sit up and reassess our business operations. We have had to make major changes, so we survive the rapidly changing environment. I am excited to be stepping up to the challenge. And my team!! Wow – They have all done the same.
Having team members working from home makes business owners face internal questions. Trust verses monitoring? This is where the quality of your team and your business culture will be tested. I count myself extremely lucky. I don’t need to question the trust of my team.
We have made any changes needed to support our team and their ability to fit their work and family/home life together. Each team member required individual assessment according to their family life. And family is certainly priority. Excellent support and communication are key and can be easily facilitated with available technology.
And will these forced changes lead to permanent change going forward? I hope so. How exciting to be able to provide such flexibility for our team and their families permanently.
Annette Tasker, principal, ALT Tax + Accounting
We are all making a lot of adjustments in this new world that has been thrown upon us with a tiny window of time to adjust. Our team here at ALT Tax consists of 6 females and one male. Two of our team have pre-school children, and one has an elderly parent. Flexible work hours and work from home routines have been encouraged for some time, systems were set in place to allow fluid movement of the workspace around 2 years ago, family reasons were a key consideration. Yes, there was an investment to be made, and yes, there were considerable IT challenges, but in hindsight (that’s when we are all at our wisest) it was worthwhile, and with the current crisis, there has been no real adaptation.
Trust is not a problem, as staff have proven to be loyal and committed in many ways. Those attributes have been repaid by allowing, or really encouraging, flexibility. A digital phone system works beautifully with mobile devices. Clients do not feel any difference to their services, which is an important goal that we manage to achieve, even working from home.
Simone Palfreyman, principal, Palfreyman Chartered Accountants
Having worked through the 2019-20 bushfire season partially remotely, our team had already adapted to the requirements of working from home. With new team members, however, we transitioned these employees to working remotely prior to it being mandatory to reduce stress levels. In this early time, our team were able to address any technological and workspace issues they were experiencing before restrictions inhibited them returning to the office. By revisiting WFH policies, we emphasised the importance of maintaining procedural efficiency (including confidentiality and communicating to clients in usual time) and the need to maintain personal wellbeing. Because of this seamless transition, we have been able to continue servicing our clients with minimal interruption.
Addressing the mental health of our staff and clients has been another major priority. We believe that professionals often do not consider themselves as the ones needing support, as it has been our responsibility to provide this to our clients and not vice versa. To ensure they considered their own mental health, we have provided our staff and clientele with a range of resources to help them move through this new world positively. This information has also been shared with our local business chamber to benefit as many people as possible during these times.