The pandemic continues to impact everyday life both in the home and business. Some are able to continue working while others find themselves in a state of work-suspension. For many, worry is ever-present and at the forefront of their mind. The reality is that we have all faced the disruption of the past 12 months seeking to do everything possible to continue the business, or, in some instances, relaunch businesses taken out by government lockdown(s).
A recent Accountancy Age (UK) poll indicates that 72% of finance professionals expect further significant changes in 2021. For example, finance managers and business owners should plan for everything being that much quicker in the area of reporting. Keeping on top of cash flow is hugely important. Preparation for this is essential – ensuring that everything “under the bonnet” is fit for purpose. How can you help clients in their preparation and reporting systems? What KPIs should they be monitoring – daily? What systems might need to be reconfigured? What training or support can you offer?
So, what do the next 12 months look like for business owners and managers? Here are a few observations and thoughts.
GOVERNMENT SCHEMES – MAYBE ENDING?
In many countries the various schemes, grants, furlough arrangements, favourable loans etc introduced at the outset of the pandemic are ending and not necessarily being renewed at 2020 levels. And all the time, notwithstanding the roll out of vaccines (there are over 150 vaccines being developed and 60 in the process of human trials), there remains the threat of further outbreaks and lockdowns. Auckland, New Zealand and Victoria, Australia have been examples in the past few days. However, as we evidence a modicum of normality returning it remains imperative for everyone in the business community to remain agile, flexible, cost effective, efficient and innovative in order to avoid the disaster that has been the sad fate of so many businesses. Here are a number of priorities upon which clients may need advice:
PRIORITIES FOR BUSINESS AND CLIENTS INCLUDE:
- Safeguarding the business
- Ensuring adequate sources of funding if a business is growing
- Business owners need to be a constant state of readiness
- Being aware the impact of tax changes as governments seek to recoup support monies
- Being aware of marketplace changes. These could be customer or supplier led
- Ongoing reviews to ensure that workplace processes are fully streamlined
- Managing supply chains – what precautionary measures need to be in place?
CHANGING WORKFORCE PATTERNS
At the outset of the pandemic many people were in shock and struggled to create clear headspace to address and cope with the enforced change in lifestyle. Work-life balance became skewed as people endeavoured to manage home schooling and work priorities amidst personal restrictions never before encountered.
So many of us have now become accustomed to remote working and integrating work with home schooling. Thus, for many a 9-5 routine no longer exists as the workday encroaches on early mornings and evenings. Remote working is generally perceived to be less of a problem now compared to the outset of the pandemic. We have all been in this for almost a year. Remote working has evidenced that staff, customers and suppliers are all ‘Online and Reachable’. However, the unknown going forward for many is ‘what will the future workplace look like’? Some employers have or are already looking at 30-40% space reductions while making arrangements for social distancing and quiet spaces for online meetings.
Google’s data of where people now spend their time relative to a pre-pandemic period shows a significant drop-in time spent in ‘work’ places that has never really recovered, and a corresponding boost in people spending time in what Google calls ‘parks,’ which includes public gardens and national forests. Interesting
So, while new patterns continue to emerge, there is clear evidence that flexible working is almost certainly a permanent feature of the workplace. A lot of people do not wish to go back to the office full time. They do not wish to return to the daily commute. This presents businesses with ongoing challenges such as assessing and managing risks including attacks, phishing, scams, viruses, logging in on shared computers. Consequently, many companies continue to seek advice and the implementation of further layers of security. Some are establishing satellite offices with hot-desking facilities nearer people’s homes combined with a shrunken head office used for meetings and collaboration.
The reality for us all is that we remain in the midst of the pandemic with vaccines likely to take a few years before we are all vaccinated. However, “Vaccines don’t save lives,” says Kelly Moore at the Immunization Action Coalition in the US. “Vaccination does.”
When a Covid 19 vaccine is approved, it triggers a staggeringly complex chain of events. These events must occur in perfect lockstep using a global supply chain that needs to reach even the planet’s most remote areas – the same supply chain that left parts of the world in desperate need of things like disposable gloves and protective equipment just months ago.
So, our journey continues. Serving clients. Seeking to manage our finances. Supporting staff while requiring them to perform. Making decisions on a dime. Planning for a future that has certain certainties but still a lot of unanswered questions.
I trust these blogs are of value. My thanks for investing your time with me.