In this guest article, accountant Mohit Baheti shares his thoughts on what the future of work looks like for accountants post COVID-19.
Who would have thought of a time when the whole world will come to a standstill and we’ll be caged inside our homes. We heard of epidemics and endemics earlier but how painfully funny it is that we’ve come in terms with this word Pandemic only after seeing it actually happen, thanks to COVID-19.
This makes me draw my Conclusion number 1 that most of us did not see this coming. We’ve always wished for “life to PAUSE over the weekend” or an “extended weekend”- look God just granted our wish. But are we really happy? Aren’t we anxiously waiting to get back into NORMAL life? But why? As per the University of Nottingham’s report “81% of UK businesses reported that COVID-19 is currently one of the top three sources of uncertainty for their business.”
This brings me to my Conclusion number 2 that WE WERE NOT PREPARED for it. Our businesses, our life, everything has come to a cessation. But does it apply to all of us alike or are there any exceptions. For the sake of brevity, this analysis is based on the impact it has on the accounting profession only.
Now let me tell you – yes there are a handful of accountants who are still on the go, working almost as usual, maybe working remotely but none of their operations being interrupted. The reason? They were clearly ahead of the curve. These are the people who embraced the latest technologies to establish robust and sustainable systems. So, my dear friends, it’s time to open your eyes to THE FUTURE OF WORK.
Technology for years has been taken for granted, due to lack of awareness as well as the resistance to change. This makes us realise the importance of Business Continuity Plans (BCP) in the wake of this unprecedented coronavirus outbreak.
An organisation’s ability to work remotely solves most of the problems and gives them a competitive edge in a situation like this. Remote working refers to working outside the office cubicles, maybe from your home or an offshore location, enabled by the use of a myriad of digital tools. These digital tools include apps for web-conferencing, cloud accounting applications, document sharing applications, screen sharing so on and so forth etc. Let us understand what the pre-requisites of remote working are.
- Access to the internet at every remote location: The first and foremost step is to ensure that each of the remote working locations (including your home) should have a strong and secure internet connection.
- Cloud-based applications: This is the most crucial leg of protecting the business from any sort of disruption. Being in the accountancy profession, having a cloud based accounting software becomes imperative especially in order to facilitate a remote working environment. Even when your team is scattered around the globe, having digital access to all the data and tools can help them in serving clients with ease.
Another thing where most of the businesses haven’t paid much attention is having dependable Customer Relationship Management software (CRM) that is again cloud-based.
Such a software can hold all your client’s personal information as well as a track of the previous conversations, invoices to date, services availed etc. Apart from making your business disruption proof, such software also adds up to the efficiency with which your customers are dealt by streamlining all the process.
Now, if we reflect on the present-day scenario, Boris Johnson has asked the nation to work from home, so we have 2 cases:
Case 1: You’re using desktop-based applications with the underlying data being saved in the office PC. In this case, you have to either carry this PC to your home or transfer everything to a removable hard disk and then carry it home. Either of which is definitely not a convenient option if you hoard a lot of data. Just imagine the hardship you will face if while doing this, a crucial set of data is left in the office PC.
Case 2: On the other hand if you use cloud-based applications for all your working, then all you need to carry home is your brain, where you’ve stored the login passwords! The rest of the information can be accessed from any PC, iPad or even a phone anywhere (of course with the right credentials).
Other digital tools
Fortunately, there’s an application developed for almost all vital tasks performed in an organisation. Say, if you want to scan a document you can do it using a mobile application like CamScanner, use Google sheets to work on shared spreadsheets, similarly use Confluence or Share Point for sharing documents, Slack for group chats etc. Also, there are tools like Sococo, Mural etc. that help in strengthening collaborative working.
- Sococo offers virtual office overlay making employees feel like working under the same roof even while working remotely with features like virtual dedicated cabins, shared meeting rooms, and meeting each other for a coffee etc. apart from the regular ones like chat, call, and video call.
- Mural is a visual collaboration tool. It provides digital whiteboards where the team can brainstorm on strategies using its features of sticky notes, tools for flowcharts, drawings and diagram. The team can use the digital canvas to align their ideas and stay well-coordinated.
Time for a SWITCH
This virus outbreak came with a Scarborough warning. The pandemic compelled us to remain isolated but had there been a Plan B of ‘working remotely’ in place we could have been all the same – engaging and participatory as much as we would have been in our offices. All the businesses process and activities could continue as normal even in these tough times when all of us are caged inside our homes, far or near. It’s always good to learn a lesson from your mistakes after all ‘better late than never’.
It’s time to set up something like a remote working environment which could act as our BCP in the times of such economic disruptions. This would not only require a digital setup but also training the employees with new digital skills and most importantly accelerate the shift towards such a culture of working beyond the office’s physical walls.
Mohit Baheti is a chartered accountant & a tech-enthusiast with 12 years’ versatile experience. He started working in fintech based startups with Capium in 2015 & later co-founded Online Account Filing Limited in 2018 where he is the director of operations.