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News

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
Spotlight

Chartered Accountants share their stories about working at the nexus of technological change.It is often said that Chartered Accountants can be found in every sector, and they are increasingly making their presence felt in the technology space. While some are supporting excellence in financial reporting, others are creating inclusive company cultures and driving new business.In the pages that follow, three Chartered Accountants tell their stories about working at the nexus of technological change. Slack’s Lorna Mac Namara, Stripe’s Joe Kinvi and Hubspot’s Eimear Marrinan are all immersed in various strands of Ireland’s technology scene and have interesting insights to share.Whether you are interested in a career in technology, working in the space already, or simply curious about the people behind the companies driving technological change, the interviews that follow will introduce you to influential Chartered Accountants in some of the world’s best-known organisations.The professional slackerLorna Mac Namara discusses her role as Senior International Accountant at the online messaging platform, Slack.Why did you choose a career in the tech sector?I was looking for a challenge. I qualified in the middle of our last recession and about six months into a permanent, safe job, I saw an advertisement for a contract role with a tech company that would potentially go public. That company turned out to be Workday, and I was lucky to have been there pre- and post-IPO for five years. This was the greatest learning curve for me professionally and from there, I was hooked!Describe your typical day.I wake up at 5.30am. I am a mother of three small children under six, so there isn’t usually an option! I start my work day by catching up on Slack, our own product, which is a channel-based messaging platform. I get to see what decisions were made overnight, see discussions that were had, and progress made on projects and operational activities. I catch up with the international team here in Dublin and what they were working on also. From our Dublin office, we look after all countries outside North America and Canada. As a team, we cover time zones at either side of our day, so flexible working is essential. Most of my work, outside of the day-to-day routine, involves collaborating with colleagues around the world, both internally and externally. I work on cross-functional process improvement projects and international expansion plans.What do you most enjoy about your role?In a fast-growing company, there is a huge opportunity to make a difference and have an impact at every level. I love being part of building a finance function from the bottom up and seeing the company evolve from the start-up phase into a large public company. There is a real focus on finance transformation and continuous improvement here too. Once you have something solved, automated or improved, the company is growing so quickly that a new challenge presents itself. My roles have always evolved and they are diverse, which I love.What surprised or challenged you when you first joined the tech sector?What surprised me most was the energy people have for making our lives simpler, better and more productive. There is an openness to change and an appetite for trying things in new ways.What has been your most important lesson to date?To fully utilise my skills and continuously develop them. I focus on learning in every role and invest in CPD and continuous education as well as ‘on the job’ experience. I have managed payroll, tax, audit and month-end, and having to learn about other areas has benefited me – mostly in my finance transformation work. Also, never be precious about what task you are given at the start because you will get to learn about the company from the ground up. When it comes to career paths, sometimes a sideways move can be more beneficial than the traditional climb to a management role. And crucially, enjoy the people you work with. I am so lucky to have wonderful colleagues; they are the best sounding board during difficult times and late hours.How do you think your particular role will change in the next ten years?I believe the focus will be on adding value to the company and making accounting a strategic advantage along with the day-to-day operational work. I think global collaboration will be a critical factor in our future, particularly with how COVID-19 has affected work practices. Working in tech gives you an insight into how future accounting practices will evolve. I love working in a company like Slack, which is on the cutting edge of how our industry will operate and collaborate over the next decade – particularly when it comes to transparency and remote working.Earning his stripesJoe Kinvi, Growth Account Manager at Stripe, shares his experience of stepping into an area of the tech world that is growing at break-neck speed.Why did you choose a career in the tech sector?I started my career in the financial services sector and early on, I could see the impact tech was having on the industry. I was very attracted to how tech could enable me to do my job and around the same time, fintech was bubbling up in Europe. I knew this would be a massive industry soon and when the opportunity presented itself to work for a fintech start-up, I jumped on it. Fast-forward five years, fintech is here to stay and we are using more fintech products around the world than ever before. I really enjoy working with these fintech companies on a day-to-day basis.Describe your typical day.Unfortunately, a typical day doesn’t exist in the account manager world. But since COVID-19 hit, I’ve tried to structure my week in a way that allows me to handle customer calls early in the week and focus on getting things done during the latter half of the week. The typical Friday involves a retrospective review of my week and discussing various topics with the team. My entire team is based in Dublin, but I have some clients in the US and Canada so I work late the odd night – but that’s very rare. As I’ve been working from home, I get a lot more done because I’ve embraced, and gotten used to, this new way of working. (Pro-tip: get yourself a top-notch chair!)What do you most enjoy about your role?My role is very user-centric and I enjoy interacting with a mix of customer profiles, mostly within the financial services industry. My days are never the same and I spend a considerable amount of time interacting with engineers, product managers, project managers and biz-ops teams. Internally, I liaise with the sales and the engineering team. I really enjoy being the go-to person whenever my clients need something, and I use that as an opportunity to learn about the products we offer at an in-depth level. I aim to move into a product manager role eventually.What surprised or challenged you when you first joined the tech sector?I was quite surprised to see how fragmented the industry was. I used to think about tech companies being the big ones such as Google or HP, for example, but most industries have a tech component or are tech-enabled. The tech sector is quite big and continues to grow every year.What has been your most important lesson to date?Don’t stop learning! The world is ever-changing and new innovations and technologies keep popping up daily. We can only adapt to this through continuous learning.How do you think your particular role will change in the next ten years?The account manager role will be more data-driven and relatively automated, but the human aspect will remain. The typical account manager will, therefore, handle more accounts and use data to optimise client experiences.The crafter of cultureEimear Marrinan discusses her journey from Chartered Accountant to Director of Culture at HubSpot.Why did you choose a career in the tech sector?I joined the technology sector over seven years ago when it was still growing in Dublin. The ability to be part of a high-growth company and industry was so exciting to me. The pace of change, the opportunity to make an impact, and the chance to work somewhere that challenged me to grow both personally and professionally were also huge draws.Describe your typical day.I don’t really have a typical day but in general, I get up with the kids and try to work-out before breakfast (something that has been my saving grace during lockdown!) We’re lucky to have a childminder who comes to our house in the morning, so I have time to check my emails and touch base with my EMEA and JAPAC teams. Since the kids are now at home, I always have lunch with them. Then, the afternoon is generally spent on video calls with my team in NAM and working through my to-do list for the week.What do you most enjoy about your role?At HubSpot, our mission is to help millions of organisations grow better. And as Director of Culture, my team is responsible for bringing this mission to life by inspiring and enabling people to do their best work. This gives me so much joy, knowing that we are making a positive impact on our people first and foremost while helping HubSpot achieve its mission and goals.What surprised or challenged you when you first joined the tech sector?Moving from a company that was headquartered out of Dublin to one that was headquartered out of the US was a definite challenge. It took time for me to effectively structure my day (and calendar), knowing I spent my morning with APAC and my afternoon on calls with the US. On the flip side, the global reach of the tech sector is incredible – being able to pick up my laptop and walk into a video conference where peers join me from India, France and the US is truly amazing.What has been your most important lesson to date?Learn how to focus on fewer things done better. There is so much scope to make an impact and get involved when you join the tech sector, and this can get pretty overwhelming. It is essential to focus on the things that will genuinely make an impact, and nail those before you widen your scope. Also, focus on the things that will scale as the tech sector continues to grow.How do you think your particular role will change in the next ten years?We take culture at HubSpot incredibly seriously, so much so that we have published our own external Culture Code. And at this moment in time, as companies lean more heavily into the world of remote, culture is more important than ever. Organisations will recognise that having someone dedicated to creating an inclusive and diverse culture is not just critical for employee engagement and retention; it is business-critical and mission-critical. As we consider changes to how we work in a more virtual world, my role is already shifting towards creating a culture that transcends physical space and is inclusive of everyone – no matter how, when or where they work.

Jul 31, 2020
Member Profile

Lucy-Anne O’Sullivan, a trainee Chartered Accountant at KPMG and qualified radiographer, talks about her recent return to the front line at St Vincent’s Hospital, Dublin to help tackle the COVID-19 crisis.How did you arrive at a career in accountancy?It is safe to say that I have taken quite an unconventional route to accountancy. I studied radiography at University College Dublin (UCD) as my undergraduate degree and started working in St Vincent’s University Hospital shortly after. I worked there for two years with a fantastic team and made life-long friends. I was always drawn to the corporate world and wanted to explore this interest further, so I completed a Masters in Management at UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School. It was something totally different and allowed me to explore various aspects of business. This was my steppingstone to KPMG Risk Consulting, where I am currently preparing to sit my CAP 1 exams.You recently returned to the front line. What was that experience like?When the COVID-19 pandemic hit the country earlier this year, I felt compelled to make use of my skills as a radiographer and returned to St Vincent’s. Radiology has had a huge role to play in both the diagnosis and treatment of COVID-19 patients. I am very grateful to have had the opportunity to help out a department that has been under a lot of added pressure.The transition back to the hospital was smooth as I was familiar with St Vincent’s, having worked and trained there before. KPMG was hugely supportive of this move, which I am very thankful for. The first week or two took some getting used to as there were numerous new protocols, but wearing head-to-toe PPE and voluntarily walking into the COVID-19 intensive care unit (ICU) quickly became the new normal. The hospital looked and felt quite different, but I felt quite safe as the protocols in place are very effective. There are enormous backlogs of exams as a result of the lockdown, but it is reassuring to see that these patients are slowly but surely starting to come back to the hospital as it looks a little more normal each day.Describe your typical day at the peak of the COVID-19 crisis.The role of the radiographer is very hands-on and, as a result, there is no scope to shy away from the virus. A standard day involved running to COVID ED (the COVID-19 emergency department) to perform chest X-rays on every query case that arrived into the hospital. Every ICU patient needed a daily chest x-ray to monitor progress and assess new line positioning. Radiographers can be seen running all over the hospital with portable X-ray machines to examine patients on the wards, as well as treating non-COVID-19-related patients in the emergency department. I trained in the Cardiac Catheterisation lab, so I also spent some time there as standard illnesses are still occurring.What lessons will you bring back to your role in Risk Consulting?My lessons are quite simple: people are critical to the success of any team, regardless of the working environment. My time in St Vincent’s was tough at times, but I never had to face it alone and always had the full support of my team. It is incredible to see what you can overcome with the backing of a good team behind you.If you could give the public one piece of advice, what would it be?Don’t get too complacent too quickly, as the virus is still out there. That said, I am as excited as anyone to get back to normal. Also, hand sanitiser is your best friend!

Jul 30, 2020
Personal Development

In these challenging times, it is comforting to know that everyone can develop resilience. Dr Eddie Murphy explains how.Nobody can be protected from adversity all their lives. In fact, over-protection can result in poor problem solving and later, poor coping skills in the face of adversity. Recently, I planted a Tree of Hope in the People’s Park in Limerick as a symbol of how hope and brighter days will come after the storms pass. Indeed, some people are like trees in that, having survived the most challenging weather conditions and been tested by adversity, they will grow and endure.In reality, bad things happen. We all have periods of stress, loss, failure or trauma in our lives. But how we respond has a significant impact on our wellbeing. We often cannot choose what happens to us, but in principle, we can choose our attitude to what happens. It isn’t always easy in practice, but one of the most exciting findings from recent research is that resilience, like many other life skills, can be learned.What is resilience?Resilience comes from the Latin word resilio, meaning to jump back. It is increasingly used in everyday language to describe our ability to cope with, and bounce back from, adversity. Some define it as the ability to bend instead of break when under pressure or difficulty, or the ability to persevere and adapt when faced with a challenge. The same skills also make us more open to, and willing to take on, new opportunities. In this way, being resilient is more than just survival; it includes letting go, learning and growing, and finding healthy ways to cope.It’s not rareResearch shows that resilience isn’t a rare quality found in a few extraordinary people. One expert on the subject, Dr Ann Masten, describes it as ‘ordinary magic’, noting that it comes from our everyday capabilities, relationships and resources. She argues that resilience is dynamic and that we can be naturally resilient in some situations, or at some times in our lives, and not others. Each person and each case is different.We can all work on our resilience. We can’t always predict or control what life throws at us, but we can build a range of skills to help us respond flexibly, deal with challenges effectively, recover more quickly, and even learn and grow as a result. It can also lower our risk of depression and anxiety and enable us to age successfully. What’s more, the same skills can help us manage the fear of taking on new opportunities and help us develop in other ways too.Areas of influenceThree areas influence our resilience:our development as a child and  teenager;external factors such as our relationships with others or having a faith; andinternal factors, such as how we choose to interpret events, manage our emotions and regulate our behaviour.Parents and those who work with children can do much to help build the resilience of kids and teenagers. While as adults, we can’t change our childhoods, we can do plenty to develop our resilience within the second and third factors. Indeed, research shows that resilience is developable in adults as well as in children.Building resilience skillsThere is saying, ‘what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger’. Science has shown that it has some truth: experiencing some adversity during our lives does increase our resilience by enabling us to learn ways of coping and identify and engage our support network. It also gives us a sense of mastery over past adversities, which helps us to feel able to cope in the future. We have probably all experienced things as stressful initially, but later find that similar activities no longer phase us. It is important to learn that, through such struggles, our coping skills and resources can be taxed but not overwhelmed.Some psychologists argue that most of us aren’t prepared to face adversity. We, therefore, run the risk of giving up or feeling helpless in the face of difficulty. But by changing the way we think about adversity, we can boost how resilient we are. Based on extensive research, they believe that our capacity for resilience is not fixed or in our genes, nor are there limits to how resilient we can be. I like this, as it allows for hope that we can change.Resilience and relationshipsOne of the critical external sources of resilience is our network, such as family, friends, neighbours, and work colleagues. Taking time to nurture our relationships is a vital part of building resilience. Knowing when we need help and asking for it is an integral part of resilience. In this era of mental health awareness, reaching out and offering support is critical.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/ca-supportDr Eddie Murphy is a clinical psychologist, mental health expert and author. 

Jul 30, 2020