At the beginning of 2020, our accountancy practice had an office in Canary Wharf, a team of 12, a strategy for growth and plans to recruit more people because we were getting busier every day.
Then March came and everything completely changed.
Like any other business, there was so much at stake: clients to keep, team to support, decisions to make about what to do with our office, how to keep the business functioning and whether to throw away the growth plan.
Yes, we have been affected because our clients have. Some of our clients had to make the difficult decision to close their business down. Unfortunately the lockdown acted as a catalyst and accelerated the need for such drastic business decisions.
We have been transparent with our team about all of our management decisions. There is no point in trying to do anything else, especially with a team of professionals who understand very well the economic situation. A number of employees even told us they would understand if we to had to let them go because they see what’s happening. That made me even more determined to keep them.
So, the challenge was how to keep everyone in a job. The furlough scheme definitely helped and we have furloughed some of our employees in order to keep their jobs open.
One obstacle down many more to go. With the lockdown settling down we had to make sure that everyone in the team (furloughed or not) was comfortable with the change, safe and in good hands.
I was concerned about the mental health of all my team as I could sense they were worried about work, the pandemic and how life would change because of it. I had one-on-one conversations with each employee asking their true thoughts about working remotely. These honest and open conversations really helped me to know how my team were feeling and I was able to offer my support and direct those who needed it to free resources if they felt they were struggling mentally.
Some of our staff found full-time remote working really difficult. They missed the support of their fellow team members and felt isolated, particularly those that were not living with other friends or family. So, we implemented a daily Zoom team meeting, as well as regular check-ins, and each member of staff has a go-to colleague that they can speak to freely.
And now I can see that my team has begun to really enjoy working from home, not just because of the safety during this time, but also because of the comfort of being in their own homes, no commuting and having more time for themselves after the workday is done.
Working from home challenge
You would think working from home would be relatively easy, but there were a lot of hidden obstacles and we quickly realised that the team divided into two camps: those with kids and those without.
Employees who were juggling family found it really tough. With no childcare, they had to change their own routine, their partner’s routine and their children’s routine. Flexibiity and understanding were needed for these employees and they have said it is much easier working in the office!
For those without family, they have felt lonely and isolated and needed extra support. The daily Zoom meetings were essential and we spoke not just about workload, but shared our tips on where to get groceries, health habits, exercise routines, yoga, meditation, books to read and even how to de-clutter your home space.
All of our clients are business owners and they have been going through an overwhelmingly stressful time, from requiring details about the furlough scheme to needing support submitting requests for grants, SEISS, and advice on how this pandemic may affect their business moving forwards. We decided to support our clients at no extra cost to them, offering free of charge strategy calls, advice on how they might diversify, help with auditing their financial processes, advice on the grants available, which loans may be best suited to their needs, as well as submitting their requests for the Job Retention Scheme. We have tried to support them throughout the fast-changing situation and the different requirements that were coming out almost daily.
We also run free Live Instagram Q&A sessions so any business can join us and be up to date with the constant legal and tax changes, incentives and the overall developments. We have had lots of enquiries from businesses because they were confused and terrified for the future.
This has given me the opportunity to really connect with clients more than ever before, as the lack of commute means I have more time to have video meetings, and there is more flexibility with appointment times on both sides. I have been able to be accessible and on hand to offer advice and support wherever I can as I believe it’s crucial during such an unprecedented time. I have been overwhelmed with how much clients have appreciated this.
It’s been a really tough few months, but like everything this will pass. It’s important that when we look back at this time, we can honestly feel that we did everything we could to support our team and clients and make the right decisions for everyone. I know that I can.