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Remote working: silver linings for accountancy

Airts

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accountancy, covid-19, wfh
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It goes without saying that these are monumentally challenging times. Coronavirus has forced businesses of all shapes and sizes to adapt, with most professional services firms forced to work remotely indefinitely, many for the first time. 

But it’s worth looking for a bright side, and yes, there is one. There’s evidence that a majority of businesses have retained high productivity levels, despite the challenges and added stress of the current situation. Though there are some challenges that might be insurmountable until the situation evolves, e.g. schools reopening, the fact that many teams have continued to function – with some even managing to thrive – goes to show that there are silver linings to be found and amplified as we find our way towards a new work-life ‘normal’.

Having experimented with, and in many cases, accelerated the adoption of collaborative technology is a core silver lining worth holding on to. Enforced remote working has shown how technology can bring together, manage and, in many ways, empower teams.  

So how can we use what we’ve learned to improve how we work, and the quality of our staff’s working lives, sustainably?

The silver lining for your teams

Remote working for teams has taught us how technology can be layered seamlessly through our working lives. Video calls are now an accepted part of daily working life. Face-to-face communication arguably has its own power. But working exclusively online has brought some perhaps unexpected advantages. Communication between teams and departments for many firms has improved. Regular structured calls, which are both inclusive and focused, have replaced impromptu and inherently exclusive information sharing. 

Internal collaboration may be more efficient now than when teams were ‘segregated’ in an office setting. New technologies which have proven to facilitate this should be maintained and fully exploited in the new normal working world.

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The silver lining for your clients

The lessons we learn from this period can also change how you engage with your clients. Years ago, pundits prophesied the death of face-to-face meetings when virtual meeting technology was first introduced. While in the long run, this prophecy will likely still fail, as travel cost savings will never trump closing a deal, in the shorter term, it is a much more viable option for new reasons. First, there are the health concerns, which are likely to remain for some time yet. Second, there is the environmental impact, with an opportunity to support both your own and your client’s green initiatives. And while the travel cost savings are still a nice benefit, even more so, limiting your employees’ and their communities’ exposure in transit is a win-win. 

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The silver lining for everyone 

As a recent Ipsos poll has shown, forced to stay and home and rely on technology to do business, consumer trust in technology has seen a rebound. 

One major trend will be the rise of remote and flexible working, especially in the short and medium-term. The great news is employees will be able to use the skills and technologies they’ve learned to remain focused, productive, and healthy whilst working remotely. 

Employers who invest wisely in supporting effective home working environments for their teams, providing the technology and health and safety tools, will not only reap the benefits of a more productive and engaged workforce. Subject to existing property commitments, they may also be able to realise substantial savings in divesting themselves of office space.

Understanding that employees may change the way they work is a vital part of managing teams in future. It’s looking like the ‘9 to 5’ is a thing of the past. Employees should be empowered to adapt how they manage their own working lives, remaining motivated, satisfied, and productive.

Intelligent planning tools can help managers and employees to get the most out of their time, effectively assigning work and tasks whilst keeping motivation and empowerment high. With an increasingly distributed workforce, the right technology will be more important than ever. 

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There are more lessons out there for all of us as we alternately inch and leap our way towards new ways of working. The lessons we’ve learned so far must be used to help improve the way we work, and the quality of our staff’s working lives. And that is worth looking past the clouds to find.

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