Articles

Practice and Business Improvement

  New supports (ROI) InterTradeIreland – Emergency Business Solutions  InterTradeIreland – E-Merge Programme  Restart Grant for Small Businesses  An Post funding for SMEs New supports (NI) Micro-business hardship fund Government Business rates supports  InterTradeIreland – Emergency Business Solutions  InterTradeIreland – E-Merge Programme  UK Government Future Fund CAF Emergency Fund  Coronavirus Emergency Fund  Clothworkers’ Emergency Capital Programme UK Charity sector support package Support for NI fishing industry  Amendments made to current scheme: Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (UK) - Applications will not be limited to businesses that have been refused a loan on commercial terms extending the number who benefit.  The Treasury has not capped the interest rates banks can charge. - The scheme is now available with 22 participating lenders.

May 26, 2020
News

How can SMEs prepare for the severe economic shock that is going to hit? Ger Foley outlines how businesses can adapt and continue in a different way. I will not pretend to be an advisor who has all the answers for business owners on this. I absolutely don't. However, as a business owner myself, I can relate to all the uncertainty that business owners are facing. Short-term actions Things are clearer when viewed in front of you – on a spreadsheet or even just on paper – it doesn't matter what you use, but it is essential for business owners to make the financial state of their business visible. This will help with the decision-making process and will continue to be critical in the future. You should approach this by: Determining the cash reserves of the business. Finding out how much is owed to you from customers, and what exposure you have to debtors that are unable to pay in the short-term. Finding out the sales pipeline or order book for the short-term (three to six months). Risk profile this pipeline based on the customer, their industry and how their business might be impacted. Determining what the profit margin will be on certain sales. Finding out the current fixed weekly/monthly costs of the business – rent, lighting and heating, insurance, etc. Ignore wages/loan repayments for now. Establishing your payroll cost on a weekly/monthly basis. Determining business loan repayments on a weekly/monthly basis. You are now armed with data to allow you to make decisions. It may be possible to defer or get some extension from suppliers concerning the fixed costs mentioned. The banks will help, although this situation is evolving clarity is needed on exactly what this help will look like. Contact your bank and tell them you are trying to understand your position and will need support. Request a holiday or some other short-term reprieve from your loan repayments. Have a very transparent and open conversation with your team regarding payroll. Allow them to look at the numbers and ask for suggestions or input to the discussion. Longer-term actions We are in for a severe economic shock in the short-term. We are all in the same boat. All we can do in the immediate term is to survive but, more importantly, help each other and our communities. Business owners need to have practical positivity and approach the next chapter with the same level of enthusiasm they had when they started their business. Businesses have been built to where they were pre-COVID-19 so they can be built again. Will they look the same? Possibly not, but the SME sector is excellent at being agile. There are certain approaches that can be followed by the business community: Show leadership as business owners in following HSE advice and return to work protocols. Support their local economy where possible by using local products and services. Local businesses able to operate also need to support the community, e.g. ease of access, quality of service, coming up with innovative ways of ensuring the community has access to the products and services they want. How do you make your product or service relevant in these new circumstances? Businesses that remain strong have a responsibility not to take advantage at this time. They need to pay suppliers quicker than they have previously. Local and national government need to continue to help business owners with whatever supports are needed. We need a period where SME owners can focus on reinventing and adapting their business without the immediate pressure of cash flow and liquidity concerns. Over the coming weeks, as we understand more about what the medium-term future environment will look like, all business owners are going to have to consider their business models and how they can adapt to a new environment. Ger Foley is a Partner at Comerford Foley.

May 21, 2020
News

The hospitality sector has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. Adrian Crean explains how, with innovation and forward-planning, this sector can overcome the challenges it faces. As a well-known boxer once said, “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face”. March’s lockdown announcement saw the hospitality and food service sectors decimated, a sector that employs 260,000 people, over 10% of total employment, and significantly supports regional employment. According to the CSO, 70% of these businesses ceased trading temporarily or permanently. Protecting staff, minimising ‘cash burn’ and managing liquidity became the immediate priorities. Even with the phased re-emergence from lockdown, it’s clear that things will be much different to before. The health crisis has become an economic crisis, and many businesses will not see a return to their 2019 levels until 2022, at earliest. Others will not return at all. Businesses are having to think, plan, adapt and act fast. The impact of COVID-19 Higher unemployment, less disposable income, reducing consumer confidence and much lower overseas tourism numbers will have a significant impact on the hospitality and food service sectors in the months ahead. If our own domestic travel restrictions could be safely lifted during June rather than July, it could provide a meaningful and much needed domestic tourist season. As it stands, however, significant planning and investment is being invested to give customers and staff the reassurance needed that the sector will be employing the highest operating standards in a safe, hygienic and welcoming environment – even if it comes at a cost. For example, the implications of social distancing on businesses are enormous. Michelin starred chef, JP McMahon, recently highlighted that at his Aniar restaurant in Galway, setting a two-metre distancing rule in the restaurant will see capacity reduced by approximately two-thirds. Even a one-metre distance will see capacity reduced by one-third. Social distancing in restaurant kitchens and back of house will result in simpler menus and reduced staff numbers. These SMEs will have accumulated four months of debts without any trade and face many more months at subdued levels. Businesses will not be financially viable without burden-sharing on fixed costs, especially rent and rates. Landlords, local authorities, government, and business will all need to participate. Innovating In times of great crisis, we also see great innovation. Customers will need to see a renewed emphasis on value for money. People will be more careful where and how they spend their discretionary income. All businesses should be considering three tiers to their offer – value, mid-tier and premium. The adoption of click ‘n’ collect, curbside collection, grocery and delivery are great examples of channels that hospitality and food service businesses have opened to allow them to reach their customers, but partnering with delivery aggregators is expensive. Charges typically range between 20% and 30% of sales value. This might be manageable of it’s 10% of your business but not at 50% of it, as businesses are now facing. Home working is here to stay. With office capacities reduced by 30% to 40%, expect businesses to rethink their location strategies. This will benefit more suburban and regional locations. Also expect to see leases with rents pegged to turnover becoming the norm. They are a far more equitable solution. Lastly, businesses must invest in their brands. Authentic and memorable storytelling that excites and engages their customers communicated across the right platforms has never been as important. As CS Lewis said, “You can’t go back and change the beginning but you can start where you are and change the ending.” Adrian Crean is a non-executive director with LEON Ireland.

May 21, 2020
Ethics and Governance

How can charities, especially smaller ones, deal with the many challenges they are currently facing? Kathya Rouse identifies key areas where accountants may be needed to help charity clients. Like everyone else, charities are struggling to come to terms with their new normal. The unprecedented situation we find ourselves in, and uncertainty around the short-term outlook, makes planning for the future exceptionally difficult. Some charities are continuing to provide ongoing services, while other charities are operating limited or no services due to the current government restrictions. It seems likely that some level of social distancing will be in place for some time and many charities will need to come up with new ways to continue/recommence providing their services while adhering to the relevant government restrictions. Amid all this uncertainty, how can we, as accountants, help? Many smaller charities do not have the expertise among staff or trustees to deal with many of the challenges they are being faced with. We are more than “just” accountants to these clients – we are their trusted business advisors who can be relied on to provide independent advice. I have identified a few areas where you may be needed to help your charity clients: Provide a sounding board and listen to their concerns Despite many similarities between charities, each one will have different requirements right now, so aim to provide a bespoke solution for each charity.   Encourage them to develop a contingency plan to guide them through planning for their organisation during the life cycle of the current pandemic There are various free templates and guidance issued by some of the main charity sector support organisations, such as The Wheel and The Carmichael Centre, which you can direct clients to. The contingency plan should be a live document which remains under regular review. Advise charities around their governance requirements and their AGM There is conflicting advice around whether AGMs can be held entirely virtually under company law except where specifically allowed by the company’s constitution. You can play a key role in helping the charity figure out its position re quorum and use of proxies to overcome this hurdle. Get involved in the budgeting process Budgeting has never been more important, and you can provide your expertise through assisting in, or reviewing, the budgeting process. Like the contingency plan, the budget should also be a live document updated regularly. Empower the trustees Empower the charity trustees to make decisions around whether they can use their current accumulated reserves to make up for a temporary deficiency in resources by assisting them to ascertain their restricted and unrestricted funds. Stay up-to-date Ensure you stay on top of the various funding streams available to charities, such as the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme and the new €40 million COVID-19 support fund, and make sure to keep your clients abreast of any available funding. Keep up to date with ongoing regulatory, professional and other guidance which may be of use to your clients. Chartered Accountants Ireland have collated a list of various guidance documents which are available on its website and is open to everyone, not just members. Make use of any reputable free resources available to you and your clients. Kathya Rouse is a Partner at McMoreland Duffy Rouse and a CA Support Board member.

May 14, 2020
News

In these uniquely challenging circumstances, how can accountants support non-profits? Patricia Quinn and Paula Nyland tell us that thoughtful and clear-eyed planning is needed to mitigate the challenges facing these organisations. Stories from the non-profit sector can paint a bleak picture of services threatened, vulnerable people at risk, fundraising decimated, and mature non-profit businesses facing unprecedented challenges to their viability. The emergency €40 million funding package provided by Government for the non-profit sector will go a ways towards buying some much-needed time, allowing these non-commercial businesses to take stock, regroup and renew their operations. If you look at the thousands of non-profits listed on Benefacts public website, you can see that the sector is highly diverse. At one end, there are heavily staffed health and social care service providers that derive most of their funding from the State in exchange for providing essential services. At the other end, there are thousands of small, local associations and clubs that rely mostly on donations and volunteer effort. These are uniquely challenging circumstances for non-profits and accountants have an important role to play in supporting them – whether as professional advisors or as voluntary Board members. As analysts of sector data, these are the kinds of situations Benefacts has encountered: Dependency on fundraising and donations is high, with almost €0.9 billion reported in the most recent financial statements of all the companies in Benefacts Database of Irish Non-profits. The pandemic has decimated traditional interactive fundraising in its many forms – whether event-driven, church gate collections or calling to homes to sign up to direct debits. Some high-profile campaigns have mitigated this, such as Pieta House, which raised €2 million after a push on social media, but this is only a third of the €6 million raised by last year’s ‘Darkness Into Light’ walk, with no alternative project to fill the €4 million gap. Online fundraising simply does not have the same impact. Many non-profits do not hold an adequate level of reserves. A good rule of thumb accepted by some Government funders is 10 weeks of operational expenditure. Sadly, few non-profits enjoy this level of security. In fact, many Government funders actively discourage the holding of reserves, with the result that several non-profits operate a ‘hand-to-mouth’ existence in terms of cash. Although the cost base of larger non-profits reflects the labour-intensive nature of their work, Benefacts analysis shows that in the case of many smaller non-profits (i.e. less than €250,000), non-payroll expenditure amounts to some 70% of their cost base. This means the COVID-19 subsidy will be of limited value. The demand for services is higher, and the costs of delivery will increase with the cost of delivering care with social distancing restrictions still active. This will have far-reaching effects in homelessness services, respite, residential care, and many more service areas dominated by non-profits. In the voluntary housing sector, income support payments have helped maintain rent payments but, without a further injection of funding, it will become harder to meet the demand for housing given the likely consequences for the coming recession for the building sector. Inevitably, the current focus is on the immediate issues, but for the medium-term, thoughtful and clear-eyed planning will be needed. Directors and trustees need to be looking at cash flow projections, potential increases in demand, and commitments to continued government support. Without this, sector leaders are telling us that tough decisions may be needed to cut services as early as Q3 2020. Although the emergency fund is very welcome, many organisations will need an early commitment of future government funding into 2021 and beyond to maintain essential services. The alternative could be closures, with all the unthinkable consequences for the most vulnerable in our society.   Patricia Quinn is the Managing Director of Benefacts. Paula Nyland is the Head of Finance at Benefacts.

May 14, 2020
Ethics and Governance

How can charity trustees continue to safeguard charities during this tumultuous period? Michael Wickham Moriarty gives us three top tips on how to safely guide your charity through these uncertain times. The COVID-19 crisis has now been impacting Irish charities for at least two months. What should charity trustees be doing for their charities now and for the future? Keep meeting, but be flexible Board and committee meeting schedules may have been disrupted, or even paused, during the introduction of restrictions in March and April. This is entirely reasonably as management focused on facilitating remote working and core business continuity during the initial stages of the crisis. If meetings have been on hold, look to restart them now. All the governance functions of charity trustees are just as important during this crisis as they are during normal times. Undoubtedly, the agendas and board calendars will need to shift to focus on business continuity, crisis management and other COVID-19 related risks. All meetings should be remote rather than in-person. They may take place at different times to facilitate either board or management. Some meetings for board and committees may be called at short notice as the charity responds to a rapidly changing situation. The papers prepared by management may be less polished and punctual as the executive team focuses on crisis response. Going forward, charity trustees should continue to meet and focus on their core governance roles of strategic direction, oversight and risk management. Think of all stakeholders Given the serious impact of COVID-19, management may focus their energies and attention on specific stakeholders or critical areas. Charity trustees should ensure that all stakeholders are considered during the crisis. For example, the management team may be focused on serving and protecting their vulnerable beneficiaries without giving sufficient attention to staff welfare, including their own. In many charities, the funding and financial crises could take all the attention away from the critical work of the organisation. Institutional donors are a stakeholder that can dominate the attention of charities, but many of these funders are currently being flexible with their grants, allowing charities to focus on other stakeholders. Trustees should ensure due consideration is given to the needs of all stakeholders, as well as organisational sustainability. Be a critical friend to management Most charities are dealing with multiple complex risks with a high-level of uncertainty over the future operating context for funding, staff and beneficiaries. This level of uncertainty is likely to persist for the remainder of this year and beyond. Charity trustees must always balance their relationship with management between challenge and support. As a trustee, you may have access to networks, expertise and experience not available elsewhere within the charity. Use this information to test the assumptions that management use for their COVID-19 response plans. Examine the scenarios and decision points set out. This trustee perspective can really add value as you collaborate with management in agreeing how to chart your charity’s path through these unprecedented times. Good luck! Michael Wickham Moriarty FCA is a Governor and Vice-President of the Rotunda Hospital, and he is the Director of Corporate Services of Trócaire.

May 13, 2020
Strategy

How can business leaders and entrepreneurs take pole position after COVID-19? John Stapleton explains how they can thrive in uncertain times and drive competitive advantage from the emerging new normal. The Irish Government issued its Roadmap for Reopening Society & Business over a week ago. So, Ireland has a plan. Sometimes plans raise more questions than answers – but it is a plan nonetheless and a lot more than many other European countries have in place. For business leaders in general, particularly entrepreneurs, any form of a plan is a good thing. A plan delivers clarity. A plan removes (at least some) uncertainty. This plan comes with lots of caveats (e.g. that infections and death rates remain under some degree of control) but businesses can at least now figure out some scenarios of how to prepare for recovery and re-instigate their businesses given the enforced eight-week hibernation. I can imagine financial directors and controllers up and down the country have been pumping out spreadsheets outlining scenarios ‘X,Y,Z,’ given the different effects the lockdown relaxations will have on their particular business and how quickly they can take advantage of the new business and market ‘freedoms’. While some industries have been more affected than others, all our feeling the impact of COVID-19. My industry is food and drink. Many think this has been booming during COVID, but it depends on your route to market. If you supply food service (e.g. hospitality/restaurants/events), you have been in a very deep hibernation. If you supply retail, it is a mixed bag. It’s all going to be a different story for each business across all sectors. One thing for sure is business will not return – ever – to what it was like in January or February. Everyone’s behaviour has been significantly and suddenly affected. While the rules are about to relax and, with them, our behaviours, many new attitudes will stick, at least in part. Just like empty retailer shelves in March were not really driven by panic buying, but rather by every shopper placing a few extra items in their basket (because everyone was cooking at home significantly more). This shows that a slight shift in behaviour by many people can have a profound effect; ultimately, we all need to figure out what this means for our industry and our business going forward. Working within the new normal One thing that unites all entrepreneurs, however, is that we are used to adversity. We court adversity – even in the good times. Entrepreneurs also tend to be quite good at seeing the opportunity in uncertainty and turning that uncertainty into competitive advantage. The status quo favours the corporate, who has the resources to drive efficiencies and growth in more certain and predictable times. Entrepreneurs are much more agile and can react and take advantage of new market forces. The real trick for entrepreneurs now is to understand what is coming round the corner – to begin to define the “new normal”. How many people will continue to work from home – just one day per month more than they did before? How many people will continue to work out at home to something they streamed on YouTube in the last few weeks? How many businesses will decide they don’t need such a large, swanky office in the centre of town and down-size, move to the suburbs or decentralise? How many businesses will reduce travelling to physical meetings and move to web-conference? Do you really need to physically be at that quarterly meeting in New York, or will an annual visit do just as well while the rest are held on Zoom? You only need many people doing a few of these things 5% of the time to move to a “new normal”. These days, I work with a range of small, early-stage businesses. My message to them is that the Government’s plan is great (and it is great), but the Government doesn’t run your business. That’s your job. This is the time to take control of your business’s destiny. Take the time to define what the “new normal” means for your industry and position yourself to take best advantage of this shift. Entrepreneurs are agile, so play to this strength. Entrepreneurs thrive in uncertain times, so take the opportunity this presents to get to into pole position to be able to kick on purposefully and drive competitive advantage from the emerging new normal. You don’t need to be the best in the world; you just need to be better than your competition (who haven’t recognised the new normal yet). John Stapleton is an entrepreneur and speaker. He is also a business adviser for Bord Bia.

May 08, 2020
News

As exit plans for the COVID-19 lockdown start to emerge, businesses need to focus on how best to manage the ‘new norm’, says Teresa Campbell. Remote working became normal for thousands of office workers in recent weeks as businesses turned to modern technologies to continue operating during the COVID-19 lockdown. As restrictions are lifted, a priority for businesses in the coming months will be to provide a safe environment for employees and customers. However, it will also be important to not lose sight of the overall culture within the business. Undoubtedly, the quick shift to remote working has caused anxiety within workforces. The right culture within a business needs to embrace this change, recognise the new challenges employees are facing and provide the right level of support and encouragement. As working from home is likely to continue, at least for some workers, this will be a new challenge for businesses whose culture up to now may not have involved managing remote teams. Good communication will be more important than ever with regular check-ins between managers and their teams. Team engagement mechanisms will also be needed – for example, virtual team meetings, virtual coffees and other social interactions. This is important to ensure that staff do not feel isolated and everyone feels part of a team. While technology is the key enabler of remote working, it also presents risks that need to be identified and managed. Homeworkers may be targeted by cybercriminals seeking to gain access to an employer’s network, routers may be attacked, data may be compromised, or video conferencing security may be breached. IT teams will likely need additional resources to protect data, defend against cybercrime and ensure policies are up-to-date and communicated to staff. Returning to the workplace Employees may feel anxious about returning to work while there are still cases of COVID-19 in the community. Employers will need to be sensitive to these concerns and put procedures in place for a phased return of staff. At a practical level, office spaces may need to be reconfigured to accommodate physical distancing between workstations, in meeting rooms and common areas like canteens and coffee stations. Perspex screens between workstations may need to be installed along with hand sanitising stations. Staggering return dates and working hours may also be necessary, depending on operational needs.  Looking to the medium- and longer-term, businesses may need to move away from open plan, accelerate the adoption of new technologies, and introduce processes such as thermal screening to monitor employees and visitors and keep workplaces safe. Changeable working environment Retaining culture within the “new normal” workplace will have to recognise that the new working environment will be a mixture of home, office and online. Interacting with staff through the use of collaborative tools, supporting staff with more flexible work patterns, and communication practices will all be key to enable staff to adapt their personal work structure and routine, which will ultimately be productive and effective. The most successful businesses will adapt quickly to the new norm and the challenging demands COVID-19 presents, by putting measures in place over the coming days and weeks, positioning their business to respond faster than competitors to the rise in demand, once restrictions are lifted. Teresa Campbell is the People and Culture Director at PKF-FPM Accountants Limited.

May 08, 2020
News

Business is never going to be the same after COVID-19. How can we prepare for the aftermath? Eamon Murphy offers us lessons to cope with the future ‘new normal’. I was working in Milan when the authorities announced the lockdown of a few small towns in the Lombardy and Veneto regions in late February. The action was designed to prevent the spread of the virus to the industrial north of the country and beyond. It was a sunny Sunday afternoon and the square outside Milan’s famous Il Duomo cathedral was filled with tourists (some masked) and well-fed pigeons. The Milan fashion week and three Serie A matches had just been cancelled. I did not feel that I was sitting in a front row seat watching the start of a pandemic outbreak, but I was. Since then, I have returned to Ireland and have witnessed how this most democratic, pernicious virus has planted itself among us without any sign of leaving. Governments around the world have struggled to respond to the scale of the health and economic collapse. It is a wartime endeavour with the frontline shifted to attack the most vulnerable ­­– the elderly in nursing and care homes and those who are already dealing with health concerns. The economic impact has been swift and brutal. Thriving enterprises have seen turnover fall to zero overnight. In Ireland, the numbers dependent on state support has rocketed to over one million. All conventional economic forecasts have been jettisoned in favour of scenarios – educated guesses as to how bad the deficit, unemployment and contraction might be. This is where we find ourselves in early May – just two months after the first tentative Italian lockdown. We are unsuspecting innocent travellers who find ourselves caught up in this terrible car crash of history. As professionals in business, we have no choice but to confront our historic appointment. There will be a post-COVID phase and it’s time we prepare for our ‘new normal’. I have been working remotely for the past few months and would like to offer the following lessons from lockdown: Do not assume that your business post-COVID future will be just like it was in the past. Events of this scale always leave behind great change. Even if you think your business will not change, your customers and supply chain will. Act now. Do not wait for the crisis to end. Normal business rules have been suspended. Be bold, imaginative and innovative. Create your own future. ("What did you do in the Great War, Mr Joyce?" "I wrote Ulysses. What did you do?") Help is available. Maximise assistance from the Government schemes and agencies – wage subsidy, unemployment support, Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland loans, Sustaining Enterprise fund and financial planning grants. Find someone to talk to. Cash trumps everything. Forecast early and often. Remote working works. Trust your staff to work from home. (Right now, you may have no choice). Ask yourself if you really need all that office space when this is over. Online meetings are not the same as in-person meetings. They are filled with peril for wafflers and the unprepared. We miss the social interaction cues. These meetings require more than an effective broadband and technology. Above all they need an effective chair with excellent listening skills. Go online and find Andrea Bocelli singing on Easter in the empty Duomo di Milano. Soul music. Eamon Murphy is a member in business and of Chartered Accountants Interim Managers.

May 06, 2020
News

Staying motivated during these extraordinary circumstances is hard, but Louise Molloy has good advice on how we can retain our drive during this trying time. Working with professional clients at the moment, it appears as though we’ve been recast as the 80s hero MacGyver, expected to resourcefully apply our knowledge to ordinary items and extraordinary situations to save the day every day. We need to be professionals, leaders, carers, community support, teachers, an IT department and household expert all rolled into one. You’d need to be superhuman not to suffer motivation lags. Motivation is the drive that puts you in motion. Here are some tips on motivation when the tasks around you seem overwhelming and the purpose is unclear. Constant risk assessment You are working in extraordinary circumstances. As a client observed: “Rarely in work when I’m completing a scenario analysis does someone shove Lego in my face.” Equally, being locked alone all day every day is not a normal human state. The stress of managing work and personal pressures with an absence of feedback can be emotionally draining. Recognise that and move to mitigate, involving others as necessary. Put yourself in motion and keep moving Whether you’re in control of your timetable or not, set the timer on your phone and rotate every time it goes off. 30 minutes is ideal. It takes the human brain 20 minutes uninterrupted time to get ‘into’ a task, so gift yourself that. Ignore emails; family etc and run to the deadline. After 30 minutes; rotate to another activity (on timer). Tune in to your emotional landscape Sometimes we just need other people – their voices and thoughts help turn off our own. If you’re stuck, get outside or go somewhere else and do something visible – weed, sweep the leaves, clean the shower – anything with a tangible output. Learn to love lists Lists are your friend. They’re the only way record? how productive you are and will help keep you motivated. No job is too small for a list. Create symbols that represent your state of mind Put on a work hat – a literal hat if it helps you feel like you are in a work mindset. It’s especially good if you have kids who can see your change in schedule: hat on means their parent is at work. Be sure to shower, put on clean professional (-ish) clothes and shoes. These rituals trigger the associations with work. Have fun and embrace your inner rebel The brain is excited by difference. Walking a different route, doing tasks in a different order, – these changes ignites our interest and create energy and, in turn, ups our motivation. I challenge you to play with some of these and watch the impact. Look for what works and what doesn’t. Make this time count because it will pass. Applying these steps helps to ensure? successes. Before you know it, you’ll be your own modern-day MacGyver, able to inspire and motivate others. Louise Molloy is Director of Luminosity Consulting & Coaching.

Apr 24, 2020
Personal Development

One of the biggest challenges to productivity while working from home is being constantly distracted. Moira Dunne shares three tips on how to stay focused. Our working lives changed suddenly in March when the COVID-19 restrictions were put in place. Most people are now working from home and many are juggling family responsibilities, too. It can be hard to stay focused and get your work done each day while dealing with home life. Here are three tips to help you be productive while surrounded by distractions. Protect your focus First, think about what is affecting your ability to stay focused. Then change anything you can control and try not to worry about the things you cannot control. The most obvious thing we can control is the amount of time we are distracted by notifications. Switch off or mute anything on your device that is not essential. This can be done easily by switching your phone to do not disturb or airplane mode for blocks of time when you want to focus. Or, even simpler, just leave your phone in another room. Examine the alerts coming in on your laptop, as well too. Can you close Outlook or Messenger at certain times during the day? Realise that there are aspects of this situation that you cannot change – you cannot change the current status of the virus or how we are going about keeping each other safe. Try to accept that. Use time blocking Accept that your house may be busy and noisy with other family members around. Try not to let this become a stress as other people may need your support. Decide the best way to work around these demands. Can you identify blocks of time to work rather than trying to work all through the day? If you need to do home schooling, try doing an early morning time block when the house is quiet, break to attend to family, do another time block later. The important thing is to plan a specific piece of work for each time block. This increases your ability to stay focused and drives you to achieve the target by the end of the time allotted. Group tasks together If the day is constantly broken up by meetings and calls, there will be no time to concentrate and make real progress with your work. Take control of your day instead of doing a bit of everything all day in responsive mode. If you can, group tasks together to maximise your productivity, i.e. Zoom calls or phone calls. This helps clear other parts of the day for your solo work. Moira Dunne is the founder of beproductive.ie.

Apr 24, 2020
News

Worrying over what will happen in the future is not a proactive use of time or energy. Pat Divilly gives us two tools that can help manage our stress. At a time where we are dealing with unprecedented levels of external uncertainty, it’s essential that we invest in ourselves. Now is the perfect time to cultivate mental fitness through simple, daily practices that develop confidence, clarity and consistency. A fundamental need for us all is the need for certainty; feeling some level of routine and control. Though this has been thrown up in the air with recent changes in our external environment, we do have the opportunity to bring about more structure and certainty from within.  Mediation and journaling are two very simple tools that I have been encouraging for years to help bring calm to the busy mind.  Meditation Simply put, meditation is about bringing awareness to the present moment rather than living in the future or past. In times like these, it’s easy to fall into fear, which is always a future-based experience; a case of misuse of the imagination. None of us know what's coming in the weeks and months ahead, but it is clear that worry is not a proactive use of our time or energy. As a starting point for meditation, consider setting a five-minute timer and performing the ‘box breath’ for five minutes. For this breath, place a hand on your belly and inhale through your nose, breathing deeply and expanding your stomach. Inhale for four seconds and then hold the breath for four seconds. Now exhale through your nose or mouth for four seconds, then hold for four seconds. That is a box breath. Repeat for five minutes and watch how quickly your body and mind settles. Do not have any expectations about clearing your mind or getting rid of all thoughts. Instead, see this as a chance to calm the body through slow, deep breaths. After a number of days of practice, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised with how it impacts your feelings day-to-day. For best results, practice for five minutes in the morning and five minutes in the evening. Journaling The second tool worth implementing during this time is the practice of journaling. Most of us have a busy mind. Throw a pandemic and huge amount of change into the mix, and your busy mind can be overwhelmed. Journaling is about taking some of the mental noise from our heads and putting it onto paper to turn mountains into molehills.  Consider spending 10 minutes in the morning and 10 minutes in the evening with pen and paper. Keep it simple. In the morning, write down your top three priorities for the day and three things you are grateful for. These two prompts narrow your focus to what’s working in your life and what’s important for the day ahead. In the evening, write down your mini-wins of the day and what you learned. Confidence comes from seeing our progress but often we move through life so fast we don’t stop to acknowledge what we’ve achieved in the day. Recognising your mini-wins is about shining light on what you’ve done well. Asking the question “what did I learn today” allows us to reflect on what worked and what didn’t work in the day and consider some small changes we could make going forward. The journaling and meditation practices shouldn’t take more than 15 minutes in the morning and 15 minutes in the evening. They are easy to do, but also easy not to do. I do know they will make a great impact in helping you maintain structure, keep you feeling grounded, and provide clarity in unsettling times. Consider giving this game plan a go for two weeks and see what happens!  Daily routine Morning 5 minutes box breathing. List 3 things you are grateful for.  List 3 priorities for the day ahead.  Evening 5 minutes box breathing. Recognise 3 mini-wins from the day. Reflect upon what you learnt from the day.  Pat Divilly is an Executive Performance Coach at PatDivilly.com.

Apr 24, 2020
News

Will companies be able to find the time and resources to focus on sustainability after COVID-19? Laura Heuston is positive that they will. COVID-19 has sent shock waves through the business community with most companies reeling from the immediate impacts. In the short-term, these companies will need to focus on survival – trying to stay afloat, minimise staff layoffs and keep supply chains going. This may mean temporarily diverting attention away from sustainability efforts which, until now, had been gaining traction as the business world realised its potential to lead the transition to a sustainable, low-carbon future. The key question now is, will companies ever manage to find the time and resources to focus on sustainability again? At SustainabilityWorks, we firmly believe they will. The business community had already reached a tipping point where the corporate profit motive and environmental and social agendas were increasingly aligned, and we predict that as soon as businesses are over the initial shock, the COVID-19 crisis will bring the concept of sustainability into even sharper focus than before. Social sustainability issues that have come to the fore during the crisis include the consequences of the gig economy and the advantages of remote working. There is also a clear link between the crisis and climate change as scientists have warned for years that the risk of pandemics is growing as rising temperatures damage fragile ecosystems, which act as 'containment' systems for our planet. The mindset that believes sustainability will disappear from the corporate agenda due to the pandemic is the same mindset that used to underpin the description of environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors as “non-financial”. However, there is an ever-increasing body of evidence that shows just the opposite – that ESG issues have a clear financial impact, with research proving a positive correlation between a company’s performance on material ESG issues and good financial performance. This positive impact is reflected in share price performance and in a lower cost of capital for those companies. Investors know this, which is why investors with over $80 trillion in assets under management have signed up to the Principles of Responsible Investment, the world’s leading proponent of ESG investing. In fact, the pandemic has already been reported by the Wall Street Journal as leading investors to ask more questions about employee pay and benefits, supply-chain management and other ESG priorities. Companies should expect more questions and more focus on these “non-financial” issues post-crisis – not less. And while there is a broad range of ESG issues that attract attention from investors and the financial sector, it is climate change that is really focusing minds. During his time as Governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney consistently highlighted the threat to global financial stability associated with both the physical and the transition risks of climate change. This led to the announcement of climate stress testing of banks and insurers by the UK financial regulator, while other regulators globally are collaborating on the issue as part of the Network for Greening the Financial System initiative. There is simply no going back on the awareness of these climate-related financial risks at this point – not by the regulators, the banks and insurers they regulate, nor by investors. Finally, there are numerous examples of the current crisis bringing out the best in many businesses, with small distilleries becoming hand sanitiser producers, grocery stores paying staff unexpected bonuses and An Post bringing communities together with various initiatives from free postcards to free check-ins on our most vulnerable citizens. These actions will not be forgotten and they show the important contribution that businesses can make in response to societal challenges. This underscores one of our core beliefs in SustainabilityWorks: engaging strategically on sustainability simply makes good business sense. As policymakers and corporates call for stimulus packages to be “green deals”, the businesses that rise from the ashes of COVID-19 will be the ones that embrace sustainability as part of their core business and, in doing so, lead the emergence of a fairer, greener, more resilient world. These businesses will also become resilient themselves, something which will stand them in good stead for the bigger shocks to business-as-usual that are coming down the tracks from climate change in the coming years.  Laura Heuston is a Co-Founder of SustainabilityWorks, a boutique sustainability consulting firm that offers a unique blend of skills and experience across sustainability strategy, finance, policy and communications.

Apr 17, 2020
News

An economic downturn will be inevitable after COVID-19. How can organisations weather this storm? Having strong ESG risk-management practices in place is key, explains Lorraine McCann. At a time of fragility and loss of life, our sense of what matters changes. Significant events like the COVID-19 crisis force us to reflect and to examine what’s important personally, for our businesses, communities and society. At times when we’re faced with a lot of uncertainty, it is important to think about our purpose, the value we create and deliver, and for whom. For many organisations, sustainability for them right now means surviving; however, as we emerge and begin to recover from the current crisis, purposeful and sustainable direction can help us all navigate the uncertain and potentially winding roads ahead. Sustainability during the 2008 recession While many assumed the sustainability ‘trend’ would be shelved in the last recession, it was quite the opposite. A need to cut business costs created a mindset shift towards operational and resource efficiency that put sustainability centre stage in the recovery. Businesses that managed a much wider range of environmental, social and governance (ESG) risks were more resilient, and more capable of responding to rapidly changing market conditions. Companies quickly realised that focusing solely on financial value creation for shareholders was not enough to protect against the effects of the downturn. Leading with purpose and values, that extend beyond the financial and consider wider societal values, is now a key component in any business growth strategy. It was only through a complete collapse of the financial system that we were able to realise the true importance of sustainability impacts on long-term value creation of business in society. ESG and risk management is critical According to the World Economic Forum (WEF) Global Risk Report 2020, the top five global risks in terms of likelihood are all environmental, including: extreme weather events, climate action failure, natural disasters, biodiversity loss and human-made environmental disasters. Understanding that another recession is upon us, every business should be critically factoring ESG risks into its risk-management function. There needs to be a recognition of the interconnectedness of environmental, social and economic risks, as a failure to do so could result in material business impacts including profit-loss, operational impacts and potentially losing social licence to operate. It’s imperative that ESG is not seen to be separate to the business but integrated and connected in how a company generates long-term, inclusive growth for its shareholders. Strong ESG risk-management practices include: Governance structures for sustainability, ensuring management is responsible for sustainability risk, with the right skillset, knowledge and expertise in the business to appropriately manage this risk; Identification, assessment and management of risk to protect and create value; and Reporting publicly on the policies, practices and performance relating to sustainability risk management. Investors demand information relating to ESG factors In the EY 2018 Global Climate Change and Sustainability Services study of over 200 institutional investors, there was global consensus that ESG information is now critical to investor decision-making, and assessment of long-term value creation. “Investors believe that ESG factors can provide downside risk protection – 89% say that ESG information is somewhat more valuable (80%) or much more valuable (9%) in investment decision-making in a market downturn”. It’s important that organisations are clear on what is material to their business – that is determining which metrics will yield the most useful view of risks and opportunities that drive long-term value. Greater transparency and consistent, comparable data on these topics can also help restore trust and confidence in business at a time when credibility and brand may be at risk. Lorraine McCann is a Senior Manager and Leader for Climate Change and Sustainability Services in EY Ireland.

Apr 17, 2020
News

What does COVID-19 mean for climate change and sustainability? Dr Diarmuid Torney tells us how we can keep the conversation going about a sustainable future despite the pandemic. We are in the midst of an epoch-defining moment in history. The COVID-19 pandemic is a global tragedy, but what does it mean for efforts to tackle climate change and create a more sustainable future? Over the previous 18 months, climate change and sustainability were front and centre in government, business, and society. Greta Thunberg and the ‘Fridays for Future’ global school strike movement had captured the world’s imagination, drawing attention to increasingly dire predictions of climate scientists. Suddenly, climate change has disappeared from the news headlines. The world is understandably consumed by a different sort of crisis. Our current moment is what social scientists call a “critical juncture”. Most of the time, societies are more or less locked into particular economic, political and societal pathways. But moments of crisis – critical junctures – provide spaces for otherwise unthinkable changes in direction, and this critical juncture can provide opportunities for new conversations about climate change and sustainable development. Here are three ways we can take advantage of those opportunities. Managing systemic risk The COVID-19 crisis has laid bare the fragility of our interconnected world and our vulnerability to systemic risks. The pandemic was an unforeseen risk, but the climate crisis is an entirely foreseeable risk. It is right and proper that the focus is currently on covid-19, but in time we will need to reflect on the lessons of the current crisis for managing systemic risk.  Climate change will have far-reaching, indiscriminate, and non-reversible society-wide impacts. We need to learn from the current crisis that governments have a responsibility to manage this risk and pay greater attention to warnings from scientific and other experts. Having been maligned in some quarters in recent years, experts and expertise are in demand once more. Adapting COVID-19 has enforced abrupt changes to how we work and live our lives. Although hugely challenging, many are finding new and innovative ways to adapt to this new reality. Coming out of the crisis, some of these changes should stick, and we should have more confidence in our ability to change our lives to accommodate more sustainable-living practices. We may become more selective about international travel and flexible working, for example, both providing benefits for combatting climate change. Government action and support The state is back in fashion. As a recent Financial Times editorial put it, “Radical reforms – reversing the prevailing policy direction of the last four decades – will need to be put on the table. Governments will have to accept a more active role in the economy.” Governments across the world have intervened in unprecedented ways to support their national economies. So far, the focus has been on supporting workers and businesses that have been required to shut down temporarily, but attention is now shifting to the types of stimulus measures governments will put in place to restart their economies. There is an opportunity to align these stimulus packages around climate and sustainability goals. South Korea did this during the global financial crisis, devoting 80% of its stimulus package to green measures. There are significant risks, as well. Interest in sustainability has historically tended to wane during economic downturns, and government funding may be cut for sustainability initiatives. It is impossible to know at this point which of these futures will prevail. The COVID-19 crisis provides a potential critical juncture, but the outcome will be determined by the decisions we take collectively over the months ahead. Dr. Diarmuid Torney is an Associate Professor in the School of Law and Government at Dublin City University

Apr 17, 2020
Personal Development

Accountancy Ireland Extra has partnered with the team at SpunOut.ie to bring you some top nutrition tips for the exam season. Eating well is good for both your mental and physical health. When it comes to exams and studying, you want to be at your best – that means eating the right foods to ensure your concentration levels are where they need to be. We have put together some tips to ensure that you can eat your way to exam success. Avoid skipping meals No matter how rushed you are, try to avoid skipping meals – especially breakfast. Starting your day with breakfast gets your body going and maintains your concentration for the day. Eat plenty of fruit and vegetables It might sound like hard work, but try to add fruit or vegetables to every meal if possible. Simple ways to increase your fruit and veg intake include smoothies, adding banana to toast, and adding fruit to porridge or breakfast cereals. Drink plenty of water Try to drink eight glasses of water per day to keep your body hydrated. By drinking enough water, you’re also less likely to be hungry. If you’re not a fan of water on its own, add a sugar-free diluted squash. Opt for healthy snacks It can be tempting when studying to reach for unhealthy snacks. Snack foods such as cakes, biscuits, chocolate and sweets can be high in sugars and saturated fat, and low in certain vitamins and minerals. Instead, keep fruit such as apples, blueberries or bananas on hand for those moments you need a snack. Check out our article on swapping your favourite snacks for healthier alternatives. Wholegrains The brain cannot function without the right energy, and it needs a constant supply throughout the day to ensure it functions correctly. Achieve this by eating wholegrains with a low glycaemic index (GI) such as brown pasta, brown rice or brown bread. Things to avoid… Avoid sugary snacks as they will result in a short-term high that will eventually come crashing down, leaving you feeling tired. Don’t overdo the caffeine. Coffee and soft drinks such as Diet Coke may give you a short-term energy boost but in the long run, it will result in an energy crash that just isn’t worth it. Avoid energy drinks like Red Bull, as they will result in a caffeine and sugar rush that won’t do your body any favours. And lastly, when you’re studying, alcohol is not your friend. It will dehydrate you, disturb your sleep and wreck your concentration the next day. Not worth it! This article was produced by Spunout.ie, Ireland’s youth information website. Five great brainfood-based snack ideas The last thing you need right now is to spend time researching what to eat in the run-up to your exam, so we’ve done the hard work for you! Here are our favourite brain food snacks, all of which are quick and easy to prepare... Hummus and carrot/celery sticks. You could make both from scratch or – to save time – pick up the end-product in your local supermarket. Apple slices with almond butter. The latter can be pricy but you’ll pick up a bag of apples for less than a euro, so it all balances out. Natural yogurt with chia seeds, banana, blueberries and nuts. This can also be a full breakfast, but it’s a superfood bonanza for the brain. Smashed avocado on wholegrain toast. A big snack that’ll keep you going for a couple of hours. Dark chocolate. A daily portion of dark chocolate has been found to improve blood flow to the brain, so treat yourself!

Apr 05, 2020
News

In this uncertain environment, now is the time to conduct a strategic review. Brian Crowley explains how in four key steps. Life and our professional lives have changed fast in the last few weeks. In order to plan for the future, we need to assume that it could be the end of the year – or even later – before we return to ‘normal’ (although we can continue to hope otherwise). No doubt you will have plans in place to provide ongoing support to clients, employees and other stakeholders, while keeping  a close eye on your cashflow. Your business continuity plan should ensure that you continue to comply with all legal and regulatory requirements. However, it is time to conduct a strategic review. Develop strategies in waiting The usual starting point for an organisational strategic review is fleshing out the elements of a future long-term vision of success. But these are unprecedented times and the usual rules don’t apply. The best you can do, and should do, is develop a number of possible future scenarios with your leadership team and discuss what the strategic response will be to each scenario for input to contingency planning.* Document assumptions associated with each scenario carefully, so that they can be modified on an ongoing basis over the coming months. The output of this process is a number of potential ‘strategies in waiting’ to get you over the next 12 to 18 months, pending a full strategic review in due course. * Maybe you should be encouraging your clients to similarly prepare for the future. Assess your key clients  An assessment of the likelihood of your key clients surviving and thriving when the crisis passes will be a key input to scenario planning. Some sectors should be relatively unscathed (food retailers, farmers, some medical, pharmacies and other essential services), some we already know will struggle at least in the short term (sectors dependent on international travellers), and some probably have good bounce back potential if they can ride out the storm (pubs, restaurants, hairdressers). In carrying out this case-by-case review, you need to look at client end-to-end supply chains, the quality and resilience of management, key dependencies, and their financial resources. Stress testing Stress test for different recovery periods and specific sectors/businesses that will return to ‘normal’ quicker than others and include this key variable in your modelling. Monitoring what is happening to different sectors in countries further along the curve to recovery may be insightful. Watch what is happening in China, for example. Look at your own business model Reflect on different scenarios emerging and the possible implications for your business model. Is your current business model sustainable? Do you need to ‘up your game’ in terms of systems integration/automation? Are further operational efficiencies required to remain viable? Do you need to embrace virtual working and virtual communication full-time? Should you exit certain sectors or cease to provide certain services? Are there new evolving sectors that you should plan to target? What new services should you consider providing? In some cases, the outcome of this analysis may be to trigger an orderly wind-down of the business (e.g. for those approaching retirement age), or a total repurposing. At the end of the ‘pause’ in business as usual, you want to be able to say that you used this time to prepare as best as you could for whatever future business environment emerges when the fog of uncertainty lifts. Brian Crowley is a Business and Executive Coach and Facilitator at The Alternative Board.

Apr 02, 2020
Management

How can we lead people through these uncertain times? Wendy McCulla explores how managers can use the four stages of change to better understand and support their teams. COVID-19 is having a profound impact on the way we live, work and interact. The situation is extremely complex and continually evolving. No one can predict what will happen, so how can we support our employees through these uncertain times? Managing the process of any change is relatively straight-forward. Leading people (and their emotions) through that change is what makes the difference between success and failure. Most people do not like uncertainty. More so, a sense of loss of control. Employees may be feeling worried about their current and future job security, and even angry at decisions that management are being forced to make. The Kubler-Ross Change Curve (Denial, Anger, Exploring, Acceptance) is helpful to better understand employees’ reactions and identify how managers can best support them at each stage of the cycle. At the end of each stage, I’ve suggested some questions to think about. Stage 1: Denial When news of COVID-19 started to make the news, it seemed like something that was happening ‘over there’ and would not affect us. However, the situation has rapidly evolved and is now impacting on every aspect of our lives.  Any changes that are being implemented in the workplace need to be clearly communicated to employees. This can be difficult given the speed at which decisions are being made. Use all available channels of communication (team briefings, one-to-ones, emails, intranet) to ensure the facts are being shared. A lack of information causes fear and the grapevine will fill the void with its own versions of ‘the truth’! Ensuring that employee health and well-being are a priority in any decisions being made will help build trust with the team.  Ask yourself: How can I best communicate with my team, so they have the information they need to feel safe? What information do they need to explain any changes in direction? Stage 2: Anger As the reality of the changes in working conditions, workflow and job security becomes clear, employees may express anger. This is a natural reaction to the sense of unfairness of the situation and the feeling of lost control. Talk to your employees and, just as importantly, listen to their concerns and suggestions. Amid all the uncertainty, it is vital to make yourself available to support them. Enable employees to feel heard and valued. Ask yourself: Am I listening to my employees as well as giving them information? How can I role model the behaviours for constructive dialogue with my team? Stage 3: Exploring  As we settle into this new reality, talk to your team to identify how you can improve ways of working and servicing clients/customers. Perhaps employees can be trained in other skills or tasks to help them expand their knowledge and experience during the crisis. If work is slower, perhaps they could be encouraged to watch webinars or listen to podcasts related to their work to spark ideas for improvements. Many companies are now using technology to enable remote working and virtual meetings.  This will have an impact on how we work after the crisis ends. Ask yourself: How can we adapt the way we work? How can we keep employees connected (mentally and emotionally) over the coming weeks and months if many are working from home? What might we be assuming that is limiting our potential? How can we improve how we deliver for our clients/customers?What do they need from us right now? What can we learn from other organisations and industries that will help us evolve and survive? Stage 4: Acceptance  Offer plenty of encouragement to the team and publicly recognise creativity and collaboration (or any of the other positive behaviours you want to encourage). Share ideas for improvement and generate a sense of ‘we’re all in this together’. This is also a great opportunity to review your business strategy with the team and identify possible changes in direction based on what you have learned.  Ask yourself: What can we learn from this experience? Knowing what we do from this experience, what could we do differently to be better prepared for any future big changes? While there is uncertainty in the current situation, it provides us with a great opportunity to pause and reflect on what ‘good’ might look like for the future. As Winston Churchill said, “It is not what happens that defines us, it is how we respond to what happens to us”. Managers who stay connected with their team and work together through this crisis will be best placed to hit the ground running once we get through to the other side. Wendy McCulla is a Leadership Coach at Aspire Learning & Development

Apr 02, 2020
Personal Development

Learning to immerse yourself in that part of the glass that is half-full can act as a buffer to depression and anxiety, and increase your happiness, writes Dr Eddie Murphy. For too long, the science of psychology focused on what was ‘wrong’ with people. Only in the past 30 years has psychology focused on what keeps people happy when they are well. This is called the science of positive psychology, and I, for one, am very influenced by this area and Prof. Martin Seligman’s work on resilience, optimism and interventions that prevent depression and build strength and wellbeing. One tool that is recognised to enhance wellbeing is ‘three good things’. Happier and healthier Those who are grateful tend to be happier, healthier and more fulfilled. Being grateful can help people cope with stress and can even have a beneficial effect on heart rate. This action is easy to do, and its benefits have been scientifically proven. In tests, people who tried it each night for just one week were happier and less depressed one month, three months and six months later. Gratitude From old wisdom to the latest science, gratitude is known to be good for us and those around us. Yet, it isn’t always our automatic response, and we too often take the positive things in our lives for granted. The challenge is to learn to get into the habit of being consciously grateful. Science shows that gratitude is an essential element in how good we feel, both psychologically and socially. It increases our positive emotion and decreases our negative emotion. It raises our overall satisfaction with life and helps us have a positive outlook. It has also been shown to reduce health complaints and help us cope with difficulties. It even appears to reduce the importance we place on material goods and, contrary to what we may think, it may also increase our ability to achieve our goals. Why does it work? We have a natural focus on what goes wrong in our daily lives, often going over and over these things in our head. We are quick to notice even the smallest of problems, yet we rarely spend any time at all dwelling on the good stuff. Things that brought us a quick smile or felt good are all too often forgotten or, perhaps, not even noticed in the first place. Taking notice This action is simple but incredibly powerful. It’s about taking time to notice the good things in our lives and get more from these. What’s more, if parents remember to talk about what they are grateful for, this can help their children learn to think about the good things in their lives and hopefully develop a gratitude habit they can benefit from for the rest of their lives. This action involves consciously spending a few minutes each day focusing on some of the good things that happened to us. By doing this, we start to notice what goes right as well as wrong in our lives. Even on a bad day, some good things happen – however small they might be. Exercise: Three good things 1. Every night: before you go to bed, think back over your day and remember three good things that happened – something that went well, that you enjoyed, or for which you were grateful. These can be small (a smile, the smell of trees and grass, the sun, a juicy orange, watching a child playing) or of greater importance. You’ll probably find that it varies. Try doing this for a week to start.  2. Note them down: this is important. You may want to get a small notebook just for this purpose. 3. Think about why: for each thing you’re grateful for, write down why it happened and why you feel good about it. This may feel a bit tricky at first, but you’ll soon get the hang of it. 4. Look back: after a week, have a look back on what you’ve written. How does it feel when you look at all these good things? Do you notice any themes? 5. Keep it up: try keeping it up for another couple of weeks at least. Many people find that it becomes a bedtime habit. After a while, you may find that you don’t need to do it every night. Three times a week, or even once a week, might be enough. You may also find that you start to appreciate the good things more as they happen. ‘Three good things’ orientates us towards a sense of appreciation and engagement in life. It works because it changes our focus from the things that go wrong in life and things that we take for granted to things that go well. Focusing our attention on things that go well acts as a buffer to depression and anxiety and increases our happiness as we reflect and immerse ourselves in that part of the glass that is half-full. Dr Eddie Murphy is a clinical psychologist, mental health expert and author. Members and students can contact CA Support on 01 637 7342 or 086 024 3294, by email at casupport@charteredaccountants.ie or online at www.charteredaccountants.ie/casupport

Apr 01, 2020
Ethics and Governance

Aoife Newton assesses the prospects for gender pay gap reporting legislation as negotiations continue to form a new government. The outgoing Government made limited progress in introducing gender pay gap reporting legislation in the Republic of Ireland, and it remains to be seen whether the next government will echo the same commitment. Two separate Bills were initiated in the Houses of the Oireachtas in the past three years. First, the Labour party initiated a private members bill titled The Human Rights and Equality Commission (Gender Pay Gap) Information Bill 2017, and this was followed by the Gender Pay Gap (Information) Bill 2019. The latter progressed to the third committee stage of the Dáil, but as with the 2017 bill, it lapsed upon the dissolution of the Dáil in January 2020. Although the timing of this legislation is unknown, the next government will be under pressure to advance such legislation. The European Parliament passed a non-binding resolution on 30 January 2020, which called on EU member states to strengthen their efforts to definitively close the gender pay gap by strictly enforcing the equal pay principle and adopting legislation increasing pay transparency. The European Commission reports that the overall gender pay gap in the European Union is 16%. In her political guidelines for 2019-2024, Commission President Ursula von der Leyen committed to addressing the gender pay gap within the framework of the upcoming Gender Equality Strategy. The Commission has previously called on member states to close the gender pay gap and address barriers to the participation of women in the labour market.  As there is an emerging consensus from the European Union to close the gender pay gap, there is, therefore, a strong possibility that the next government will introduce gender pay gap legislation to comply with the proposals outlined at a European level. Against this backdrop, employers should start preparations at an early stage. Those who fail to act will find themselves addressing issues in the public domain under the scrutiny of the media, trade unions, their employees, and their customers. Organisations reporting a high gender pay gap may be viewed as being less than fully committed to pay parity, promotion, and development opportunities for women. Where a gender pay gap exists, this may negatively impact an organisation’s brand, employee relations, public reputation, and its ability to attract and retain talent. Organisations operating within a pyramid workforce structure when it comes to gender creates a pay gap, and if such a difference is greater than that of an organisation’s peer employers, it may have some uncomfortable explaining to do to its stakeholders. The all-important narrative The size of the gender pay gap is important, but the accompanying explanation could distinguish progressive employers from those who are merely observing a compliance obligation. Under the Bill, employers would have been required to publish – concurrently with the percentage results – the reasons for such differences and whether they had taken any measures to eliminate or reduce the disparities. This requirement must be replicated in any new legislation, as the mere reporting of data could lead to a compliance complacency while defeating the spirit of the legislation. In contrast, employers who take the opportunity to analyse and explain their gender pay gap are likely to benefit from such transparency. The narrative for any gap is a particularly important opportunity for employers who have a relatively large gender pay gap. The media and the public often confuse the issues of the ‘gender pay gap’ and ‘equal pay’, even though the two are very different concepts. Employers should use their narrative to minimise the risk of confusion and take the opportunity to explain the nuances or legacy issues in their organisation, which may have led to a gender pay gap. This should encourage a level of transparency that enables employees to question and challenge reward models and packages, and employers to highlight their efforts to achieve gender pay parity.   Aoife Newton is Head of Corporate Immigration and Employment Law at KPMG Ireland.

Apr 01, 2020

Was this article helpful?