It feels hard to believe that little over three months ago the Prime Minister announced his decision to put the United Kingdom into lockdown as a result of Covid-19 – knowing the impact this would have on our economy, job protection and general wellbeing.
As the lockdown now begins to significantly ease, it is easy to focus on the negatives and the long road ahead to recovery and hard to concede that this pandemic may leave any lasting positives for businesses. But, for some, it will have started a catalyst to certain positive changes.
From an accountancy perspective, the need to update systems and bring them more in line with the digital age had already begun due to HMRC’s Making Tax Digital. However, with the accounting staff of many businesses working from home this has forced those to consider their systems to ensure they are robust and flexible enough for staff to continue their duties whilst away from their main office.
There has also been a wider review of working practices during this period. In particular focusing on the centralisation and digitisation of processes such as new procedures for authorising invoices and expenses, more streamlined banking processes and a stronger IT infrastructure. As a firm, Ensors have worked closely with many clients to streamline their systems so they are more efficient. In turn allowing them to restructure the roles of staff and reduce the time spent by higher level management in dealing with day-to-day processes and focus instead on the trading part of the business.
When times are uncertain the mantra “cash is king” becomes even more relevant.
Working practices have been reviewed and adapted in terms of businesses considering both their credit control (tightening up on processes to chase down those outstanding debts) and invoicing. A number of businesses have discussed with me their changes to push more cost upfront or introducing more frequent stage payments. These are all sensible measures, but sometimes are not considered when it not seen as a priority in less uncertain times.
A further consequence of digitising working practices and having more staff working from home, has been the ability to reduce carbon footprint both in terms of printing and travel costs.
Whilst some travelling is essential, for many business relationships the use of technology has now enabled them to continue almost as before. It has allowed us all to adapt our business development too, reaching more wider relationships than previously thought possible. I doubt many of us would have even heard of Zoom or Teams until recently – but these changes have certainly been beneficial to business and the wider community, I work closely with a number of manufacturers and their diversification to support the national effort and adapt their working patterns has led to them inadvertently expanding their market into areas they wouldn’t have considered beforehand. This has not just been seen in this sector either, but across others such as technology and medical.
So, as we all begin to return to some form of normality with lockdown easing, it is important these changes are not stopped or forgotten – but used to bring forward businesses and provide a catalyst to continue adapting into what will undoubtedly be a brave new world.