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Coronavirus Diaries: James Simmonds, UHY Hacker Young

Following Boris Johnson’s initial announcement about lockdown, the first few weeks were filled with questions about what was to come.

I spent huge amounts of time on the phone to my clients, discussing CBILS, CJRS, SBRR grants & SEISS an array of acronyms that took some time to get our heads around while the government was still developing the legislation.

As things calmed down, I began to settle into this new normal way of working remotely and was happy to see everyone pull together remarkably well. Our 75-strong team in Nottingham have been working from home since late March, using remote desktop functionality to access our network.

This system has been great during lockdown, enabling the team to use their laptops or home computers just as they would in the office by mirroring the office network.

We have also benefitted from regular use of Microsoft Teams, which has provided us with the tools to make voice and video calls, access instant messaging services and arrange virtual meetings with colleagues and clients. 

One of the best changes we’ve made since Covid-19 is becoming almost completely paperless. While we previously produced paper files and printed documents to provide our clients with physical copies – much like the rest of the accountancy sector – we have now developed a new system whereby we store this data electronically and attend client meetings with all documentation saved onto a laptop.

This initiative was already in motion before the pandemic hit, supported by our use of cloud accounting programmes like Xero, but Covid-19 forced us to speed up this transition and adapt quickly to a more modern way of working by taking the majority of our processes online. Billing and invoices are also now carried out electronically, making it easier for our staff members to work from home and improving the business’ carbon footprint – something we look forward to continuing.

We are incredibly grateful for the way in which everyone at UHY Nottingham has come together to support our clients as much as possible, despite the limitations initially faced when working from home.

Despite not being able to socialise in person, we have been encouraging staff to participate in regular social interaction, attending virtual Friday drinks and a series of office-wide quizzes on a regular basis to make sure we keep team spirits high until we can reunite when it is safe to do so.

A regular update has also been issued weekly to both our London and Nottingham offices, detailing personal accounts from different team members about their Covid-19 experience, highlighting their highs and lows over the past few months.

We have also introduced a well-being section on our intranet, which provides staff members with access to mental health resources and puts them in contact with a dedicated team that act as confidants during difficult times.

In terms of reopening the UHY Nottingham office, we are hoping to do this in phases over the coming months. We currently have two members of the admin team in the building on Tuesday and Thursday mornings to fulfil duties that cannot be carried out remotely – such as dealing with the post – and we are working on introducing new precautionary measures to ensure the environment is as safe as possible. 

Hand sanitiser has to be used upon entry, along with other government regulations like logging staff member’s attendance should they stop by to pick up office equipment. We are also carrying out regular cleaning to make sure surfaces are as sterile as possible. 

We are continuing to monitor the situation and will be taking the appropriate measures to stick to strict health and safety guidelines once the remainder of our team returns to the office. 

We have also put together a survey to gather information on how people are feeling about returning to work, any worries or concerns they may have and the measures they would like us to put in place to protect their safety at work.

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