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Burnout has been creeping into our workplaces and greatly affecting our lives, even before COVID. Noel O’Callaghan outlines how you can identify burnout and manage your work-related stress.Increasingly, we are hearing about how workplace stress is on the rise, especially where work and life both feel uncertain and unpredictable. In a new survey from the Department of Work and Employment Studies at the Kemmy Business School, 60% of employees in Ireland are feeling more stressed since the onset of COVID-19. As we become so ingrained in the day-to-day routine while meeting the needs of employers or customers, we can miss the alarm bells warning that what was a somewhat natural and manageable stress is now morphing into burnout, something considerably more serious. Work culture seeks to identify and label what they call ‘high achievers’ but, unfortunately, delivering more and more with less and less is often the only criteria needed to earn the distinction. Day to day, month-end to month-end, quarter-end to quarter-end, the relentless pace of work makes it seem impossible for someone to put their hand up and say, “Stop. I need to rest”. If you combine this with a personality that is wholly-committed to doing a good job, has a fear of failure, or is unsupported either at work or at home, then you have a recipe for disaster when it comes to excessive stress or burnout.Signs of burnoutWhat are the tell-tale signs of burnout? Burnout can lead to physical and mental exhaustion, a feeling of detachment, or a feeling of never being good enough no matter how much you deliver. Are you:terrified of going to work every day?always tired?disinterested in participating in hobbies outside of work?getting little enjoyment in anything and no motivation to seek it?feeling stuck, with little or no light at the end of the tunnel?(Sometimes these can also be accompanied by unusual physical aches and pains.)These are just a few of the more common red flags, but it can be different for everyone. The great news is that burnout is treatable. Taking breaks, knowing your limits, and watching out for situations or people that elevate the stress can help. However, there are also huge benefits gained from working on your relationship with work. I-It and I-ThouMartin Buber, a theorist and 19th-century Austrian philosopher, suggested that humans have two approaches to the way we interact with people, things and nature. One is an ‘I-It’ approach where we objectify whatever we are dealing with and seek to get as much out of it for ourselves as possible and the other is an ‘I-Thou’ approach, where we turn to the subject as a partner and seek to relate more to it for the mutual benefit of both parties. There is a recurring theme that I see is in relation to how people interact with their career and the workplace. A pattern emerges over years whereby one relates to their career, work or co-workers from an I-It standpoint, viewing it as a means to an end, which can cause the relationship with work to become so unhealthy that people become ill. Having a more constructive relationship can alleviate the symptoms of stress and burnout and instil a sense of nourishment into the workday. We should aim to shift the relationship from I-It to an I-Thou and think of work as something to be engaged in, enjoyed or experienced.  Noel O’Callaghan FCA is a qualified psychotherapist. If you would like to discuss how any of the topics mentioned above are impacting your mental health, please contact the CA support team at CASupport@charteredaccountants.ie.

Sep 04, 2020
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Sustaining a family business can be complicated. Liam Lynch considers how good governance can achieve the right balance between family and business.Like any enterprise, a family business needs governance to ensure that its family and business strategies are aligned and achieved. This governance must protect the business from the normal and predictable challenges that family involvement brings. However, formalising ownership structures, power and processes can create resistance and (often healthy) conflict as the management of a family business transitions from an ‘autocracy’ to ‘democracy’.The benefits of governance far outweigh the challenges of developing it. As more generations become involved, and the demands of people in the business increase, the need for more a formalised governance structure is vital.Governance means education and pre-agreed rules about management and how strategies will be implemented. These rules must apply to everyone involved in the enterprise, from directors to shareholders, managers and staff.There typically needs to be two separate but related sets of rules (governance). One regarding how the family will behave and relate to the business – a family constitution, even if not formalised as such – and the other regarding how the family will behave and relate in the business – a Shareholders’ Agreement and sometimes a Board Charter.Discussions must start nowBuilding a sustainable family business means starting early to communicate about plans for growth and future succession. Unlike a regular enterprise, a family business is usually built on a level of trust and informality by the founder family members. However, if a business is to grow and employ more people, including family, it needs a level of structure to help the business ‘scale-up’.To minimise distraction to the business and tension within the family when formalising governance structures, it is important to recognise that these issues are completely normal and predictable. It can be helpful to work with an independent party who can facilitate conversations, share proven frameworks and use their experience to navigate the process. Invariably this will lead to a better outcome.Four pillars of governanceGovernance is broken down into four pillars: management, income, control and equity.ManagementA common trigger of problems is when the founder brings children into management roles who have not gained the experience to perform the roles. This not only creates tension, but it can stunt the business’ performance. Having pre-agreed rules regarding how family members can join the business, and the required experience, involvement, development and output – just like any other employee – will help alleviate this.The pre-agreed rules will consider reporting lines, and establish performance expectations and review processes, as well as how issues are communicated and resolved. Ideally, family members should report to someone outside the family, but if it is a family member, their performance review should happen with an independent advisor as well. These rules help prevent disagreements later and spill-over between business and family relationships.IncomeThere must be clarity around how family members, in and out of the business, will be recognised and rewarded, and how they can develop and progress. Part of achieving the balance of a sustainable business will mean adopting rules that reflect the different roles family members can play in relation to the business as employees, directors and/or owners.Think about it like employees earning a market-based salary, family members who contribute as non-executive directors earning directors’ fees, and owners receiving dividends or repayments of capital in accordance with the pre-agreed plan. ControlThere also must be clearly defined rules in relation to the decisions that managers, directors and owners make in each of these roles. An important distinction to remember is that family members are ‘equals as members of a family’ but not ‘equals as managers, directors or owners of a business’. Some of these rules may reside in a family constitution, business policy or shareholders’ agreements.  The important thing is that they are clear, agreed, communicated and respected.EquityLike any business relationship where there is more than one owner, there needs to be agreement and communication on how people will behave as owners. This includes defining who can appoint directors, the payment of dividends, how decisions will be made, how and when ownership interests can be sold or transferred, and how the business will be funded.Respect the separation of powersFinally, the creation of a governance structure is all about clearly defining and respecting the separation of powers. Focusing on the above four pillars ensures that each area has clear governance, helping family business members avoid arguments and ensure the success of their strategy.At the end of the day, a lot of this comes down to ‘best fit’ rather than ‘best practice’. Families and the businesses they own need to do what’s right for them in their own context. Making sure a governance structure is in place that is tailored to the specific history and needs of the family will mean they manage and avoid arguments and problems down the road to a sustainable future. Liam Lynch is a Partner and Head of Private Clients in KPMG.

Aug 28, 2020
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Giving a presentation is hard enough but now we also need to grapple with technology while keeping the audience engaged. Eric Fitzpatrick outlines how you can build on your presentation skills to effectively present remotely.  Giving presentations can be challenging at the best of times, but over the last six months, they have become a little more difficult because they need to be delivered remotely via platforms like Zoom, Webex, and Teams. We’re at the mercy of technology, feeling more distant from our audience, struggling to engage and not always certain that our message is getting through. The following ideas will help when delivering presentations remotely.  The old rules still apply Many rules that work for face-to-face presenting also work for remote presenting:Know your audience. Be clear about who you are presenting to so you can tailor your content to reflect what’s important to them. Clarify your objective. Know what you want your audience to do, think or believe at the end of your presentation. Give one message. Regardless of the length of your presentation, only ever deliver one message. The longer your presentation, the more points you will have to support that message but every time you present, deliver one message only. If your audience gets that message, that’s your job done. Structure your presentation. Build a deliberate structure into your presentation so that it is easy to follow and understand. Most presenters never include a deliberate structure, which can confuse your audience and cause them to switch off. Engagement is key. Build your presentation to include deliberate engagement techniques, such as questions, stories, humour, audience interaction. This will keep your audience enthralled and increase your chances of making sure they are still with you at the end of your presentation.   Rules for remote presentationsThe rules that are especially important for remote presenting include: Less is more. Make your presentation short. If you deliver 30 minutes face-to-face, try to cut it to 20 minutes for remote presentations. This will increase your chances of keeping your audience engaged.Slow and steady. Slow down when speaking remotely. Build-in longer pauses to allow your audience time to digest what you have said. Don’t be afraid of the silence.Visual impact. If using slides, make them stronger visually. Bigger, brighter images or graphs will provide a visual stimulus that will support your spoken word more effectively. Reinforce the message. Don’t finish with a slide that contains any of the following two words: “Thank you”, “Any questions?” or “The end”. Instead, finish with a slide that reinforces the message you want your audience to take away.  Craft your opening and closing word-for-word. The opening of your presentation is where you are most nervous, while the words you finish on have the potential to have the greatest impact on your audience. Crafting them word-for-word increases your impact at the beginning and the end of your presentation. Practice makes perfect. Practice more for remote presentations so that you can get as comfortable as possible with the content and the technology. Do a technology check in advance. Finally, there is a debate regarding whether a presenter should stand or sit when presenting. Do what is most comfortable for you. Sitting is more intimate and can build stronger connections, while standing allows you to be more passionate and energetic. Also, there will be occasions when the technology will let you down. Don’t be fazed by it. Most audiences are very understanding when this happens.Finally, the two most important considerations for remote presenting are whether you can be seen and heard. Given that this is how we will be presenting for the foreseeable future, there is value in investing in a good microphone, webcam and the right lighting. Eric Fitzpatrick is the owner of ARK Speaking and Training, the author of Persuade on Purpose: Create presentations that influence and engage.

Aug 27, 2020
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How can boards navigate the many obstacles thrown up by COVID-19? David W. Duffy gives five tips on the way boards can future-proof their organisations.COVID-19 has thrown up incredible challenges for all boards. These include going concern issues, survival, future financing, managing a workforce remotely and staying market-relevant.Assuming the organisation can make it through COVID-19, one of the key questions to be addressed by the board will be to determine whether the organisation has a sustainable business model and, if not, what to do about it. While all organisations should continuously assess their business models, those in the education, tourism, entertainment, hospitality, sports, fintech, retail and restaurants sectors need to have a sustainable model to get them through COVID-19 and to the future beyond.Business models will be influenced by several factors, such as: effective leadership; the level of innovation at board and CEO level;the speed at which organisations are able to move online;being able to breakeven while reducing capacity by at least 50%;having the internal skills to enable a smooth transition to a very different working environment; andhow fast the competition is responding in comparison.While it's hard to know what the future will look like, the time to figure out an organisation’s business model will depend on the strength of an organisation's balance sheet. However, even large companies will have a limited timeframe in which to act.What does this mean for boards? This is a leadership moment and the board should seek to take control of an organisation’s destiny. Time will be of the essence – organisations do not have the luxury of spending four to six months developing a plan. They must find a way of doing it faster, or risk being overtaken by events, both short term and in the future. Five things boards can doInitiate a strategic review of the business. Assess whether the current strategy is fit for purpose by seeking evidence from the market. If it is not, initiate the development of a potential new strategy that is sustainable in the current and post-COVID climate. Bear in mind that no one knows what the future will look like. It is therefore essential to consider various scenarios in strategic planning and evolving a model that will work.If there is no future for the business, the board must look at ways to limit diminution in shareholder value by seeking opportunities to sell all or parts of the business, merge with a complementary partner or wind up.If a sustainable business model does emerge from the planning process, the board needs to carry out an evaluation of its skills and competencies in the context of the new strategy to see what new skills and experience will be required.Recognise that digital skills will need upgrading for all as the world and organisations move online, perhaps for good.Induct these new directors and get cracking!David W Duffy is the Found of the Governance Company and Co-founder and CEO of The Corporate Governance Institute.

Aug 27, 2020
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COVID-19 highlighted weaknesses in many business continuity plans. Now is the time to reassess risk and update your plan, says Teresa Campbell.The public health restrictions introduced to control the spread of COVID-19 highlighted contingency planning weaknesses across many sectors of the economy. Consequently, businesses are currently reassessing risks and seeking new ways to mitigate against the potential disruption of local lockdowns, difficulties accessing necessary services or supplies, travel and logistics disruption and changing customer demands. The purpose of a contingency plan is for an organisation to return to its daily operations as quickly as possible with all risks outlined and actions identified to mitigate. The starting point is deciding what you want the plan to achieve. Allocate responsibility for the plan to a senior member of your team and, where possible, involve HR, communications, legal, health and safety, and operations team representatives. List out your organisation’s products and services, then examine the costs and revenue associated with each, update contact lists, identify the potential impact of disruption on employees, operations and customers, and work out what actions can be taken to protect against these risks. Make sure your contingency planning team familiarises themselves with relevant COVID-19 guidance. In the Republic of Ireland, this includes the Government’s Return to Work Safely Protocol and in Northern Ireland, the COVID-19: Working Through This Together.Where business activity temporarily ceased due to COVID-19, the complexity of the recovery process will need to be considered, with objectives for businesses likely to include:Protecting people (employees and their families, customers, suppliers): This may involve adapting workplaces to accommodate physical distancing, minimising social contact, improving cleaning and sanitisation. The plan should highlight the importance of staying away from work if employees have any symptoms. Communication will be key, and procedures should be developed for and conveyed to employees or close contacts who think they may have been exposed to COVID-19 or if they feel unwell. Finding ways to continue operating: If employees, customers, contractors, and suppliers cannot access your place of business, you must have back-up plans to remain in operation.Ensuring the business complies with health and safety legislation: This is essential to protect both your organisation and your employees.Protecting liquidity and financial stability: Monitor cashflow, optimise working capital, and avail of COVID-19 funding, grants and tax incentives (where relevant) to protect liquidity and financial stability.Prioritising remote working: Make sure that your remote working systems are in place at all times so that in the event of a COVID-19 outbreak in the area, the risk of exposure for employees can be reduced.Cross-training Train your staff so that they can cover for one another.Communicating the contingency plan: Clearly convey your contingency plan to internal and external stakeholders so that they understand how COVID-19 may affect your business and show them what they can do to help minimise the impact.Ensuring the business operates in a socially responsible manner: Act fast and don’t try to cover anything up. If there is an outbreak of COVID-19 in the area, use your contingency plan to keep your business operating while also being socially responsible. Going forward, businesses will need to continue to comply with public health restrictions, so regular monitoring of Department of Health and WHO COVID-19 updates is important. Contingency planning must become a routine part of every business operations; without one during these times, your business will fall behind. Teresa Campbell is a Director in PKF-FPM.

Aug 21, 2020
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The last six months have been challenging for all organisations, especially those in the financial services sector. Billy O'Connell suggests four strategic actions that can help bolster those in the industry. COVID-19 has reaffirmed the need for the financial services (FS) sector to show customers what it can do for them in the most challenging of times. Many organisations have done great work in recent months, under extremely difficult circumstances, to ensure employees remain protected from infection, and customers can access much-needed services.  Before COVID-19, there was no shortage of pressure points on financial institutions, but this is a sector that has proved remarkably adept at rebounding. With the 2008 crisis in the rear-view mirror, the financial services industry was returning to near normal, just as the pandemic struck and created the 'never normal' that we find ourselves in now. I recommend the following four strategic actions that should be considered by those in the industry, not only for the short-term but for long-term success too. 1. Doubling down on digital for more accessible customer engagement   The lockdown and social distancing measures have pushed customers to use online and mobile services to manage their financial products more than ever before. This will likely drive a permanent shift in behaviour toward digital channels. Even those customers who are traditionally reluctant adaptors have had to shift to digital, leading to further focus on online propositions, at pace. Enhancement of digital channels has been a major theme in the financial services industry over the last number of years. The COVID-19 experience will only accelerate the migration to digital services over the next 12 months, requiring FS companies to become more accessible than ever, providing new products and services on digital channels, enabling flexible and live customer interactions, while also ramping-up cybersecurity and anti-fraud tools to ensure protection.  2. Working remotely, on a sustained basis   The transition to remote working was an enormous challenge over the last few months for all sectors – FS was no different. The sector needed to rapidly enable remote working processes and security measures to support staff and serve customers, while also continuing to deliver critical business and technology projects. Those who had invested in online collaboration tools and infrastructure, like Skype or Microsoft Teams were able to keep the pace on operations, business change and regulatory programmes. There will be no going back to the exact working environment seen before the pandemic and remote working practices are likely to increase, particularly for specific functions. This will require companies to look at their decision-making structures and build more fluid, multi-disciplinary teams with their partners, while giving greater autonomy to employees, built around trust and inclusivity, so they have the space to ideate and innovate rapidly.  3. Infrastructure to support agility   For both physical and IT infrastructure, agility has played an important role across the FS sector in recent months. Like a lot of businesses, financial institutions will be revisiting previous assumptions about office space and may see an opportunity to consider reducing physical infrastructure and building stock because home working has flourished. However, there will still be a need to enable face-to-face interaction and collaboration in the long-term, albeit in a physically different way. From an IT infrastructure perspective, as a sector that is in the early stages of its cloud journey, COVID-19 has shone a light on the benefits of Cloud technology.  Resilience, security and stability of critical business processes and underlying systems, speedy enablement of workforces working remotely and managing a significant increase in customer activity on digital channels – these have all been centre-stage themes over the last few months and are areas where Cloud technology can enable differentiation.   4. Analysing data for better decision making   FS companies recognise the value of the data in their systems. Trends in recent years have seen the industry using customers data to provide insights to customers on their spend, saving behaviours and needs, and to create more personalised experiences and more targeted propositions. During COVID-19, data analysis has been more important than ever – it can enable the banks to steer through the crisis, analysing at an early stage where a customer could be in, or is likely to be heading towards, financial difficulty and requires support. It’s not hard to imagine how other technologies, such as machine learning, cloud and cybersecurity will enable a new level of data analysis and will be central to plans going forward.  There are always challenges with business change and transformation, but the COVID-19 experience has demonstrated that more can be accomplished, at a quicker pace than might previously have been imagined. Being positioned to meet and accelerate through the challenges of recent months has been important for the FS sector because customers have seldom needed it more. Continued focus on change and agility is critical. Now more than ever, stakeholders are more accepting of the need for change, and investments in digital technologies will help create lasting resilience and increase service efficiency.  Although the FS industry is in the midst of a very challenging period, we are seeing real agility at play, and there is an opportunity to build on this momentum to accelerate strategic change more broadly within the sector. Billy O’Connell is Head of Financial Services in Accenture.

Aug 20, 2020