3rd April, 2020

How accountants and bookkeepers can adapt to working remotely

The COVID-19 lockdown has suddenly forced businesses to accept remote work arrangements (at least temporarily). For accountants and bookkeepers, now’s the time to take action.

As the lockdown goes on, more businesses are having to adapt to remote working environments and home offices. Those that don’t yet have remote working measures in place are now pushing hard to get up to speed.

Bookkeepers and accountants are also in demand, having to continue supporting their clients under changing working conditions, uncertain economic conditions and while trying to digest information regarding the release of the cash flow stimulus packages announced by our Government.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison to date has announced $214 billion worth of economic stimulus packages to date to help the Australian community to try surviving the rapid downturn caused by COVID-19.

In New Zealand, the situation’s the same, with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announcing $12.1bn NZD in stimulus several weeks ago, with more changes arriving regularly on the NZ Government’s specialist COVID-19 support site.

Business owners will be dependent on their accountant and bookkeeper to help them gain access to eligible stimulus packages as well as plan for the future in order to come out safely on the other side.

This is the time for forward planning and cash flow forecasting (if you haven’t done so already), while also getting used to working from home.

A view from the other side

Melbourne-based bookkeeping consultants 2 Peas Pty Ltd has been busy implementing new ways of working with changes to video conferencing, staff training and dealing with clients.

With tools like Zoom, TeamViewer and Microsoft Teams now being crucial to managing meetings, it’s clear every business will have to adjust.

“We have been interacting with our clients, colleagues and staff like this for a few years now especially when dealing with remote, interstate and overseas clients,” said Pam Madytianos, director of 2 Peas Pty Ltd.

“This is second nature to our business as we have been working this way for a while.

“During the crisis we have helped clients get remote who were resistant to do so, and they are now loving the new norm.”

2 Peas Pty Ltd isn’t the only one. Many accountants and bookkeepers have been working remotely for a few years now and as a result are quickly able to use technology with their clients in order to service them much quicker without disrupting workflow.

Online and cloud-based software applications can be cost effective as well as easy to use.

“We extend our services by helping and supporting accountants and bookkeepers struggling to keep up as well as those struggling to adopt remote systems,” said Madytianos.

“We have always worked closely with other partners extending our service offering to drive additional services to them as well as their clients. This is what community is all about.

“We do not need to view each other as competitors but rather allies, especially at times like this.”

Contact your IT person as there are many ways to protect your business from hackers and attacks. If you don’t adapt to remote systems to continue running your business, you may risk your opportunity to stay afloat.

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3 things to consider when working from home

1. Effective communication is pivotal

Challenge: One of the issues highlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic is the fact that important information can sometimes be misinterpreted as it moves through the media landscape.

Opportunity 1: Now’s a good time to develop a good sense of where to go for the most current information. We recommend starting with official such as the ATO or IRD depending on your jurisdiction. You’ll also want to identify commentators or publications that provide clear guidance that’s well researched.

Opportunity 2: It’s also the ideal time to assess your internal communications channels. How do you and your team stay up to date with information and how do you share learnings and experience between yourselves and your clients? All the technology currently exists to streamline these processes for remote work.

2. Health, motivation and productivity are closely linked (and it will begin to show)

Challenge: The general health and wellbeing of yourself, as well as your coworkers may be more vulnerable than usual under lockdown, without even taking into account the potential for direct coronavirus infection. As these things underlie motivation and workplace productivity, business activities could also be impacted.

Opportunity 1: When it comes to physical wellbeing, workouts and exercise in all forms is often enjoyed as a social activity. There are innovative ways that you can encourage activity during meetings (like stretches, or taking a call while going for a walk), or in more social settings (home office yoga class, anyone?).

Opportunity 2: Small business owners of all kinds have an opportunity, if not an outright obligation, to show leadership on issues relating to the mental wellbeing of their staff, as well as suppliers, business partners and even customers and clients. For some inspiration on ways to promote positive mental wellbeing at this time, visit the Smiling Mind at work site.

3. The technology exists, but is it secure?

Challenge: Technology is a double-edged sword — there’s no getting around it. The very tools we use to facilitate near-instant communication between people in opposing corners of the globe are also the ones that pose risk to our privacy.

Opportunity: You can take a front foot on cybersecurity by learning the measures everyone should take to best protect their data while working from home. Next, use your improved internal communications processes to share the information and shift behaviours.