Over recent weeks I have been noting the challenges that I have heard about from accountants and others who have been forced to work from home for the first time. In the enforced rush to do this and with the extra pressure of helping clients struggling with the impact of the lockdown, there is a risk that some challenges have been ignored.
Whilst this may be just about acceptable in the short-term, the longer this situation persists the more important it is to address these challenges. And remember there is always the possibility that some staff will want to continue working from home even when the lockdown is officially lifted. We don’t know when everyone will be happy to return to commuting and working in offices.
Congratulate yourself as regards any of these challenges that haven’t caused you or your firm ANY problems:
- Accessing office systems (securely and safely) from home – to work on client affairs, maintain office records, keep in touch with team members, generate emails from your office email address etc.
- Ensuring the office phone line could be answered or that the answerphone gave out a suitable alternative home number.
- Overcoming poor broadband connectivity at home.
- Identifying slow and outdated laptops/pcs that need replacing – to run video conferencing and other modern facilities.
- Ensuring that everyone working from home has suitable security programmes on their machines and abides by security protocols.
- Holding true to the firm’s values, culture and principles as set out on your website and/or office wall.
- Communicating with staff and colleagues so that they work by reference to agreed priorities and goals.
- Keeping track of those who may be struggling with remote working – leading to physical and/or mental health issues. Many people prefer a clear distinction between home and work.
- Team building – especially as regards any newer staff now working from home.
- Recognising and sharing with the team the recognition of work done well (all be it remotely).
- Dealing with interruptions from children, pets and family.
- Encouraging a healthy work-life balance and discouraging anyone from working too hard – to the detriment of their physical and mental health.
- Ensuring that everyone has adequate (home) working conditions – in terms of adequate space, a suitable chair, desk/table and storage etc.
- Ensuring that everyone has updated their email signatures and how/when they use out of office messages to reflect new working arrangements.
- Updating the firm’s website with new contact details, an explanation for clients and, especially, for contacts and prospects about your new working arrangements.
- Maintaining security around client data accessed at home and over who can access the office systems remotely.
- Dealing with client work when key staff have been furloughed.
- Acquiring additional screens as 2 or 3 per person make remote (and office) working in the cloud significantly easier.
- Keeping non-furloughed staff sufficiently occupied so as to warrant keeping them on full pay.
- Deciding when/whether to chase clients for o/s fees.
- Deciding whether and when to charge additional fees for additional work occasioned by the lockdown.