COVID-19 - Why I didn’t send everyone home and shut the office
Towards the end of March it was apparent that something serious was happening and the extent and severity of it was unknown. Since that time some leaders of accounting firms have told me of measures they have implemented and others have been reported in the media.
The reports of those firms have included staff required to work from home; some non-fee earning, probationary and ‘underperforming’ employees have been stood down or made redundant, pay cuts of 20 – 40% have been imposed; junior staff close to award rates have had their hours reduced.
At PKF Tasmania, our response then was to introduce our own social distancing measures. In-office client contact has been put on hold, a table near the door invites visitors to drop off documents and spare offices and meeting rooms have been utilised to provide everyone with plenty of space away from others. Bacterial wipes and hand sanitiser are scattered around. We had a successful trial run of running laptops from home in the event that this became necessary and additional monitors have been supplied for employees’ home use. Operating from home would be relatively easy for us, given that we are cloud based in all applications.
I was less concerned about the loss of productivity from the possible distraction of working from home, but very conscious of the loss of the great positive. That is the significant benefit from collaboration and mutual support which great teams can generate. I believed that the whole would be much better than the sum of the parts. While everyone, with their range of skills and experience, performed their roles, the service to our clients would stay at high levels and I was certain we would all come through to the other side of this challenge with team intact and paid the same.
I shared in our morning staff meetings that we were not an essential service in the league of health workers, but hundreds of families were looking to us to be their access to the extensive state and federal government support.
Productivity, collaboration and support between team members in the last six weeks has been remarkable. As of last Friday, all our clients who were eligible for JobKeeper had been registered and all had received from us details of the last critical ATO submission needed this week for the April subsidy to be paid. Significant amounts of ‘cash flow boost’ have been provided to clients following their March activity statement lodgements and the regular work has still been done
I believe we are through the worst, but still with a way to go. Faith in the value of the team and providing it with support, focus and purpose is taking us through this challenging time