It’s been a heck of a year, and while we’ve all been wondering when life will return to normal, with Covid-19 continuing to have a significant impact on the country and globally it begs the question – are we already in the “new normal”? If that is the case, what does that mean for your business, your team, and your clients?
The accounting industry in particular has had to adapt quickly, simultaneously responding to client needs by providing support and guidance in navigating the raft of Covid-19 government measures, while also moving offices to remote working and managing the host of resourcing challenges that presented.
Research recently released by EY suggests that while many of the impacts of Covid-19 have been unthinkable (who would have thought air traffic could drop by 96%!), business leaders believe the new normal that is emerging is an opportunity to enable a better working world across key dimensions including health, connectivity, relationships, ingenuity, and accountability.
While several findings and insightful questions emerge from the research, we’ve highlighted four of the key themes we believe will impact how the accounting industry continues.
Remote work is here to stay
Coming out of Covid-19, it is clear that we can get the job done without the traditional office cubicle and board room. Many of our own clients have discovered they can manage remote teams effectively and see potential to reduce real estate expenses, while employees now working remotely have found they prefer it. Reduced expenses aside, this is particularly exciting for the accounting industry because talent and place have now been disconnected. Where previously you might have missed bringing in talent due to your physical location, you can now recruit globally to put together the best team for your (or your clients’) projects.
Culture is king
Of course, the demise of the water cubicle catch-up has also meant that establishing and maintaining a sense of workplace culture is even harder than before. Keeping your remote team engaged will become a key priority, and we may start to see businesses implement Chief Culture Officer roles to support their distributed workforce. Utilising technology like Microsoft Teams will enhance connectedness, while finding new and interesting reasons to bring your team together virtually will assist in fostering your new virtual-workplace culture.
Localisation over globalisation
For clients, the move to support local will be a boom for many industries after months of uncertainty or forced closures. However, with trade and travel restrictions significantly impacting businesses that rely on importing manufactured goods, there will be a need to pivot or investigate suppliers closer to home. As trusted advisers, accountants will be the first point of call from clients navigating the new world or their new venture. You’ll be best placed to support them by being able to connect them to your directory of experts or expanding your own advisory lines to incorporate areas such as Marketing, HR, and Procurement.
Prioritise health – mental and physical
The pandemic has taken an immeasurable toll on mental health for many, yet in doing so has shone the spotlight on the importance of good mental and physical health. As business leaders, it will be our job to ensure our remote teams maintain an appropriate balance – particularly as the line between work and home life becomes particularly blurred when working remotely. Consider implementing “no contact” times to limit internal messaging / emails after hours, and look for ways to incorporate individual physical and mental health breaks into the work day E.G. allowing staggered start times so team members can complete workouts / outdoor exercise etc.
While it is difficult to imagine what the next month will bring, let alone the next year, there are a number of key lessons that have emerged from the pandemic that we can call on to help us navigate the road ahead:
- Be adaptable: By embracing flexibility into your working world, your business will be able to quickly adapt when necessary. As we’ve seen Covid-19 replace offices with virtual work, and in-person meetings to Teams or Zoom catchups, adopting new ways of working will inevitably improve your ability to respond quickly as new challenges emerge.
- Plan ahead: If you still don’t have a comprehensive disaster recovery and management plan that takes in to account “the unthinkable” happening, make one now. This global pandemic has served as a reminder that the unthinkable could in fact happen to you, and you need to be prepared. While you can’t plan for every disaster, you can ensure you have a balance between minimising your risk and allocating your resources efficiently.
- Proceed with caution: Just because you can change something (thank to your increased flexibility) doesn’t mean you should, right away. The future is uncertain, and we’re yet to fully realise the impacts of this pandemic across the economy, public health, politics etc. Monitor the unfolding situation, look broadly, and respond with measured alterations when needed.
Based on the conversations we have had with our client base and with many others in the industry, we have heard numerous success stories of practices already adapting to this new normal. Our team are here to help you and your team transition to your new way of working. Click here to find out more about our solutions and how we can help you adapt to the future.
Brad also co-ordinates the annual benchmarking study “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of the Australian Accounting Profession.”
In his spare time you will find Brad in the backyard playing cricket with his two boys.