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With offices beginning to re-open, how can you engage with a dispersed and disjointed team? By collectively coming up with a team engagement plan, says Anna O’Flanagan, much of the worry and anxiety about returning to work can be expelled.Have you thought about your team engagement plan post-quarantine? How can you rebuild a team that is currently dispersed and disjointed? Without a clear path for people returning to work, there will be some anxiety around the next steps. Instead of letting this mishmash of individual interpretations create the narrative, why not consciously and collectively think about a team plan to determine the 'new normal'?How do we do this? Here are four pointers to get the conversation moving with your team.Figure out the ‘why’It is useful to revisit the ‘why’ of your team. Why does our team exist? Why do we do the work we do? Why do we do it that way?This can focus a team’s attention on the purpose of their work and determine new priorities that may have emerged in the past few months. It can also enhance confidence around the approach and provide an opportunity to clarify any issues.Share the lessons learnedGather your team, either remotely or in person, to discuss the lessons they have taken from this remote or blended working experience and what changes you would all like to make as a result.Create a planWrite up the notes from the two exercises, create a plan, and share it with the team. Explain that it is a living and flexible plan, which can be adapted as you go. Seeing it written down will give team members assurance that they have been heard and that what they have said counts. The plan also provides people with a point of reference, safe in the knowledge that there is a plan that keeps the team at the heart of everything.Meet upGet together in person. It doesn’t have to be for long, and it doesn’t need to be indoors or even have a work focus. But, if it is possible, try to meet outside the office for an enjoyable experience together. Team members have been cooped up, stewing in worry and ambiguity for too long. It is time to meet (safely and socially distanced) for a couple of hours and be together in support of one another in these strange times.Some teams are still cautious about meeting up in person, but there are many ways to bring a team together safely. Meet up in a park near the office on a nice day, or for a fun outdoor activity like an organised, professional treasure hunt or hike. These are effective ways to de-stress and re-unite remote and blended teams.Anna O’Flanagan is the Founder and Head Squirrel at Red Squirrel Team Building.

Aug 10, 2020
News

While working from home has its advantages, many are looking forward to getting back to a physical working space. Caroline McEnery outlines why working at the office is beneficial for both employers and employees.In this ever-changing environment, the subject of remote working has never been more topical. While it has many advantages, it’s also important to bear in mind the benefits of working from the office.Shared lessonsA key advantage of having a full team in one place is the ease with which colleagues can interact. Individuals learn from each other all the time, and having a colleague nearby to consult with on a query is invaluable. In an office environment, staff can soak up knowledge from others and are generally more aware of the full picture of a case or a client.Work-life balance, time management and productivityRegardless of how disciplined you are, it can be difficult to separate work life and home life when working remotely. Having a clear divide between your work environment and home environment can help ensure that one doesn’t impact on the other. The office provides a structure that allows employees to focus on the tasks at hand and be truly in ‘work mode’.SocialisingLet’s be honest, there is more to work than work! In recent months, we’ve all had to limit our social contact in every aspect of our lives. In a world of Zoom, Skype, Teams and all other manner of virtual communication, there is a lot to be said for real-life human interaction. The social aspect of work – chats with colleagues about non-work issues, humour and laughter – is what many remote workers miss, and the benefits of these social connections and relationships have been studied widely.DisconnectingThe ability to disconnect becomes more challenging when not working from the office, especially for those who are new to remote working. If an employee does not have the luxury of a home office, work inevitably takes over some section of their home and so, they may feel on duty even when they’re not. The ease of access to the remote “office” can lead to employees dipping in and out of emails or other tasks outside of their normal working hours, which can cause issues for the employer when the legal obligations around working hours are considered. It can also cause problems for employees when excessive work hours leads to issues with productivity and burnout, for example.The open doorAll employers should have an open door when it comes to an employee raising concerns, and the vast majority do. However, this open door isn’t quite as approachable when it’s a virtual one. When an employee is in the office, it’s easier to raise issues as it doesn’t have to be a scheduled call or video conference. There is a risk that a virtual open door won’t be used as often, which may lead to issues going unaddressed. This, in turn, has the potential to create long-term negative consequences.Caroline McEnery is Managing Director at The HR Suite and an HR and employment law expert.

Jul 31, 2020
News

With many offices planning to work remotely until the end of the year, how can we maintain our connections with colleagues and clients? Anna Scally explains the critical role of technology in enabling clear communication to all stakeholders.We have all been through a lot over the last five months. As accountants, many of us have participated in what has been dubbed the “largest working from home experiment”. While there have been speedbumps along the way and a lot of juggling done, most of us have been able to get on with work while working remotely. This has been made possible by our speedy adoption of certain technology tools, which enable us to function fully away from the office.While technology has enabled most of us to do our jobs for many years, never before have we experienced the adoption of certain tools at such pace. In April, Zoom reported over 300 million daily active participants worldwide, a significant jump from its previous high of 10 million.Tools like Zoom, Webex, Bluejeans, Microsoft Teams and others have allowed us to continue to connect with our colleagues and clients and, importantly, continue to meet compliance needs and deliver valuable advice to our clients. Speed of adoption of these platforms has been unprecedented. In KPMG Ireland, for example, we rolled out Microsoft Teams to all employees at breakneck speed at the start of the lockdown, and the rate of adoption has been breathtaking. In May alone, our 2,900 users logged 40,840 meetings and 98,900 hours on calls and video.Moving forwardAs we go into Q3, and as many of our offices move to re-open in a safe and socially distant way, technology will need to play a critical role. While a return to the office will be welcome, accountants will have to remain agile and flexible, and working from home will continue to play a part. Many companies, such as Google, have delayed their return to the office until 2021, while others have already started their phased return. Popular communication tools will continue to play an important part when working with clients and colleagues.While email might be a handy way to send and receive messages, it isn’t always the most secure or efficient means of sharing documents and large files. If they haven’t already done so, companies – particularly SMEs – should ensure that they have access to suitable software for collaboration and sharing documentation. They must also ensure that they have a secure place to store and retrieve data and that they have the appropriate technologies to keep their networks safe and secure.Also, business travel has been put on pause for the time being, in particular for clients in Europe, Asia and the US. International travel will not be an option for the rest of 2020, at least. Video conferencing tools will, therefore, play a significant role in enabling business across borders. It will also play a central role in reminding our clients and contacts that Ireland is still open for business.Anna Scally is Partner and Head of Technology and Media at KPMG Ireland.

Jul 31, 2020
Management

How can you keep the momentum going on recruitment and selection during the pandemic? Shay Dalton offers tips on how to maintain your employer brand and attract the best candidates in a digital space.During these uncertain times, recruitment and selection is still a priority for organisations who are trying to maintain revenue and growth targets. Keeping recruitment going through these times will place firms in good stead. Here are some helpful tips for recruitment during the pandemic.Getting hold of candidates may be easierOne distinct positive from a hiring perspective reported on by the BBC is that recruitment firms have found that reaching candidates has been easier than usual. With many employees working from home, or not able to work at all, phone calls are more likely to get answered, and interview scheduling is much easier than usual. What is more, many companies have put their recruitment efforts on hold for the time being, meaning that there is less competition for top candidates. This makes the current time ripe picking for growing firms, and a great opportunity to attract some of the best candidates.Develop a streamlined virtual process for remote interviewingWith expert predictions suggesting that COVID-19 may continue to cause disruptions for weeks and months to come, getting an effective online recruitment process up and running is crucial. With governments reporting that social distancing restrictions may be in place for some time, it is safer, more convenient and beneficial for companies to have a streamlined process for online recruitment.Move group interviews to shorter one-to-ones with key members of the teamUsing video conferencing apps for group interviews can be somewhat challenging. People inadvertently talk over one another, which can make it difficult for interviewees to keep on top of what is going on. Instead of conducting group interviews, you might consider shorter, one-to-one calls with interviewees. It is also worthwhile testing your audio and video before the call, to avoid hiccups that could look unprofessional or detrimental to your brand.Employer branding is keySelling the employer brand to would-be new recruits is somewhat harder without the ability for the candidate to visit and properly meet the team. To get beyond this problem, make sure that all online information is up to date and accurately represents both the employer brand. Following government guidance for businesses is essential for maintenance of a good brand reputation. Firms that flout guidance are being vilified in the media and are less likely to be considered good options by employees. Make sure that press reports of your firm stay positive!Focus on communication and transparencyManaging expectations will be an important part of the process. Companies that are hiring need to communicate to candidates that they will be using remote interviews for decision making. Expectations should also be set around the fact that more and more roles are likely to commence remotely at first, and this will mean remote onboarding of the successful candidate.Shay Dalton is the Managing Director of Lincoln Recruitment.

Jul 23, 2020
Careers

Networking has been about connecting with people in a physical space. How, then, do we seek new connections in a digital landscape? Rachel Tubridy outlines five methods on how to uncomplicate remote networking.A recent PeopleSource survey of 2,600 Irish business professionals from a variety of backgrounds found that 98% of respondents would now like to work from home at least one day a week, with almost half indicating that three or more days working from home on a weekly basis is preferable. Despite the fact that three-quarters of all participants indicated they were looking forward to person-to-person interaction with colleagues on their return to the office, an even higher percentage said that they would not attend business events where social distancing was out of their control.As concerns grow about future waves of the pandemic, the long-term viability of remote working and networking is very much on business leaders’ minds right now. The advent of 5G, which promises network communication speeds up to twenty times higher than the current mobile technology, will significantly reduce the need for physical office space. Instead, workers will be virtually contactable anytime and anyplace. Real-time data analysis, instant videoconferencing and uninterrupted workflows between corporate offices and a distributed workforce will change the current business dynamic. Major corporations like Fujitsu are giving workers the option to work at home or in the office, while Twitter has stated that its employees can work from home ‘forever’. But what does this mean for networking? A new kind of networking The networking dynamic has drastically changed because of the pandemic. You really must put yourself out there – informal introductions over a coffee or lunch are, for the moment, non-existent. This paradigm shift in working practices has significant implications for traditional networking. While ‘pressing the flesh’ has long been the way of establishing connections and developing trust in the commercial world, this is now being replaced by far more impersonal ways of conducting business. Physical isolation, lack of ‘live’ or ‘in-person’ events make it more difficult to communicate, which means we all must find new ways of networking effectively. People are no longer bumping into each other on the street where previously valuable information has been exchanged and where impromptu contacts were established. Networking is now being replaced by online gatherings, which, once the meeting has started, makes it’s hard to say ‘hey this is not for me, I’m out’ without raising an eyebrow. Here are five simple tips to help uncomplicate remote networking:Join business communities, local enterprise groups, Chartered Accountants Ireland district societies on LinkedIn, and participate in online meetups and industry events.When joining a remote networking event, make sure you’re comfortable in your surroundings and that you can talk freely to the other participants. Are your children, partner or housemate in the room? Find a quiet space so you’re not interrupted and check your Wi-Fi signal is strong in that space. You don’t want to cut out unexpectedly.Like with traditional networking, show up with an elevator pitch about who you are and what you do. Remember, the goal of networking is to show what you can offer the other people in the group, so be sure to have a good understanding of that yourself. Remote networking is a bit more formal than traditional events because of the medium – be patient when you have something to say, letting the person currently speaking finish what they are saying. When you do participate, be sure it’s to say something that will add value to the conversation. Remember, you’re an expert in your field and you have a lot of knowledge to offer other professionals. Relax, and remember everyone is in the same boat. The more at ease you are, the more approachable you seem and the more likely you will make some worthwhile connections.After the meeting, connect with the other attendees on LinkedIn, adding a note with your own contact details.       Rachel Tubridy is Founder of PeopleSource. You can read more about the survey here.

Jul 23, 2020
News

We all know how important the work-life balance is, especially in the accountancy profession. Noel O'Callaghan believes that in order for businesses to thrive, they must put the well-being of their employees first. Working as a Chartered Accountant has been a hugely rewarding part of my life. As a Chartered Accountant, the world truly is your oyster – it provides a ‘passport’ to travel, make money, meet people and is a great platform to launch a full and busy life. My 18 years working in the world of finance has reaped all those benefits and more. However, it is also important to recognise that it is a hugely demanding career that sometimes can come at a cost. While my career has been predominantly steeped in finance, I also work as a qualified psychotherapist on a voluntary basis. I believe if our mental health is managed well, it can not only allow us to realise our potential in the workplace, but we can also live happily outside of it. With my accountant friends, I allude to the idea that the ‘premium on pay is to help offset the tax on health’. Though this is said tongue-in-cheek, I believe that accountancy can be a highly attritional career that must be managed so that you can extract as many of the benefits as possible without being hit with a whopper of the aforementioned ‘tax bill’. It is an uncomfortable truth that many jobs in accountancy are stressful. This is evidenced by the number of workdays being lost to poor mental health continuing to rise in financial services. While this is a massive burden on employers and the economy, it pales in comparison to the pain and distress that the individuals are enduring. A recent study in the UK has found that over 60% of managers have had to put the interests of their organisation above staff wellbeing either sometimes, regularly or every day. This is troubling, given that the accessibility to staff at home during their off-hours is higher than ever. It makes a good work-life balance more difficult to achieve. The relationship between mental health and business is complex. Companies and accounting practices must seek to establish wellbeing as a ‘pillar’ of their strategy going forward and invest in it accordingly. To entice the best and brightest during the next college recruitment ‘milkround’, there must be a targeted message around wellbeing. This is desperately needed to future-proof businesses, as evidence suggests that the next generation of employees are going to need it even more than before. 69% of UK job-seeking graduates reported having mental health issues at some point. Providing a foundation on which all employees can thrive must be high on CEO priority lists going forward. The good news is that I believe we are reaching a turning point. Business leaders are beginning to address this growing problem. Organisations such as CA Support are evolving from previously presenting themselves as a benevolent fund to be a more rounded, practical support for people to help navigate challenges in their lives. For businesses to succeed going forward, they need to nurture the mental well-being of their teams. The article is written by Noel O’Callaghan, FCA and qualified Psychotherapist (IACP pre-accredited).  If you would like to discuss how any of the topics mentioned above are impacting your mental health, please contact the CA support team at CASupport@charteredaccountants.ie.

Jul 23, 2020