Date posted: 13/08/2020 3 min read

Small accounting practices face particular challenges in Stage 4 lockdown

These practical tips will help SMPs manage their communications, client services, technology, staff and mental health in Stage 4 lockdown.

Trans-Tasman Public Practice Advisory Committee members provide these tips for SMPs going into Stage 4 lockdown, from their experience

Communications

Maintain timely and effective communications, including on virtual platforms for client meetings:

  • Pay for a Zoom subscription for greater security and flexibility than the free service. Practice with someone at home.
  • Contact Australia Post and redirect mail to your home/place of work
  • Set up an autoreply on your emails, with expected response times, especially if you are inundated with client calls.
  • Manage queries by providing updates and FAQ responses via email blasts or a simple newsletter template through Microsoft word.
  • Set up a dedicated email for clients with 'COVID-19-related' issues or queries.
  • Delegate a team member to monitor the COVID-19 inbox and distribute the emails across the team.
  • Stay informed & connected with the accounting communities

Client services

Keep clients informed about your services, your COVID-19 Stage 4 availability, response times and arrangements:

  • Make a list of clients and identify those likely to be impacted the most
  • Start calling the clients who will be in greatest need of support
  • Listen to their anxieties with empathy and offer to help. Avoid 'selling'
  • Review how you charge for services and how much should be free.
  • Be on the front foot with ATO deferrals etc.
  • Don't hesitate to reach out to a trusted colleague for temporary assistance If you are overloaded

Technology

Find and nurture a good IT provider so help will be quickly at hand:

  • Use emails or Dropbox/Googledrive etc. to receive client files
  • Be aware of cyber security and privacy laws when sending/storing information.
  • Use electronic signing software such as Adobe Sign or Docusign as an alternative to post
  • Use mobile internet devices/dongles to boost unreliable/slow home internet services.
  • The Business Continuity Playbook has tips on moving your systems to the cloud to work remotely
  • Find an IT provider to setup your IT, cloud and cybersecurity systems at home. Email CA.Catalyst@charteredaccountantsanz.com for advice and support.
  • Invest in a good scanner to process physical documents and mail

Staff

Set staff up with good internet, equipment and processes to enable them to work safely, productively and collaboratively at home:

  • Office computer equipment should have better IT protections in place than personal devices.
  • Meet on a Monday morning to plan work goals for the week with clear timelines and expectations.
  • Check back in on Thursday afternoon with a lens on the next week ahead
  • Set up regular Zoom communications with the team for technical, social and wellbeing interactions
  • Check in with staff individually asking R U OK? Especially the junior ones.
  • Let down your guard on group Zoom and show you are human…..it's OK to introduce the dog!
  • Use "chat" functions like Skype to communicate with trainees who need more supervision
  • Do a couple of small things for the team. Perhaps a voucher to buy a book or rent a movie to take time out.
  • Consider paying the team a small 'WFH allowance' to recognise the increased home costs. Staff are likely to appreciate the gesture.

Mental Health

Consciously managing your changed working conditions will improve your mental health:

  • Taking regular breaks. Some outdoor activity will make you more productive in the long run
  • Monitor staff for burnout. It is easy to continue working long hours working from home.
  • Set boundaries between work and home time, particularly when managing your diary
  • Expect a loss of productivity; working at a distance can take longer despite the technology
  • Don't obsess about the uncertainty. Continuous news updates can inhibit focus and feed anxiety
  • Maintain a routine to help you get through the days and weeks faster.

Related content

Business Continuity Playbook

This CA Catalyst business continuity playbook draws on a range of expertise to offer tips and tools to survive the COVID-19 lockdown and beyond. Included in the playbook are practical checklists for you to download to use with your clients and your business.

Read the playbook

The Leverage Technology section of the IFAC Practice Transformation Action Plan

The ‘Practice Transformation Action Plan – A Roadmap to the Future’ highlights key areas and initiatives for SMPs as trusted advisers to small- and medium-sized entities (SMEs).

Read the action plan

Q&A: How do I maintain client confidentiality and other professional obligations when setting up a virtual accounting practice?

This helpsheet highlights key professional obligations, some tips to manage these and resources you may find useful in the transition to a remote/virtual office, whether it be to adapt to the COVID-19 environment, or to create a more flexible workplace.

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