April 2, 2020

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WFH: Dress codes

Back in 2009 when I first began writing on the internet for a living, one of the things I was most excited about was saying goodbye to the travesty of dressing for the office. Business casual was standard, no one really knew what it was, and I hated it. Business professional was similarly vague, and it was definitely more expensive, so I was happy to land a job where I could wear whatever I wanted and no one cared. Not only did no one care what I wore, no one knew. I was working remotely from my apartment, a coffee shop, or wherever I could find wifi—and there’s no dress code for laptop hobos.

Now I’m back to working remotely. ALONG WITH EVERYONE ELSE. And video conferencing has come a long way, which adds a whole new dimension.

This is uncharted territory for a lot of people. No one knows what to do. No, I’m not just talking about the global public health emergency raging outside. People can’t figure out this work-from-home thing. “Can I wear pajamas? Should I still shower? Do I need to have full-day lesson plans for the kids and make them lunch, or can I just throw Lunchables at them while they sit in front of Disney+ all day?”

People are having a hard time! That’s why this article about looking professional from the waist up in the Wall Street Journal exists, I guess. For the people who are wondering if they can jump on a Zoom call in a dress shirt and sweats, there’s good news: No one is going to judge you! There’s a pandemic outside! We’re all fine if you’re business on top and couch potato on the bottom.

Thankfully, some people out there—accountants, even—are embracing this:

Numerous Twitter users have bragged about the subversiveness of conducting video meetings in their underwear or pajama bottoms. “Not gonna lie—I have a meeting today that I have to Skype in for and I’m very excited to do it while wearing a dress shirt and no pants!” tweeted Nick Puschnig, a 37-year-old accountant in Milwaukee, recently.

“I was going to wear a button-down shirt with sport shorts, but unfortunately the meeting got canceled so I didn’t get to do it,” he said in an interview. “So I went back and changed into sweatpants.”

There’s two ways to go here: Read the unexceptional advice of an image consultant (e.g., “ditch the tie”) at the end of the article, or just do whatever you have to do to get through this, and we agree to give each other a pass when we’re all social distancing back in the office.

RelatedSurvey: 12 percent of at-home workers skip video due to lack of clothes

Working hard

Occasionally in this newsletter (even pre-coronavirus outbreak), I humbly suggest that accountants relax more. You know, take a breather now and then. Some of you bristle at that idea, which makes me think you’re the ones who really need a break. But there’s pretty good evidence that we all could tone the work down a bit:

Based on the OECD data, the average US worker worked 1,786 hours in 2018, 423 more than the 1,363 hours worked annually by the average German worker. Assuming a 40-hour workweek, that’s around 10 and a half additional weeks of work. The typical pre-pandemic US worker similarly worked almost six more weeks per year than the typical French worker and the typical UK worker.

That comparison suggests that a complete US shutdown of two months would mean Americans worked roughly the same number of hours as a pre-pandemic German worker.

Ideally, we wouldn’t need
 a global pandemic for Americans to work a little less, but here we are. The irony is, the public health crisis quickly caused an economic crisis, and many of you are now working hard to help clients and their employees sustain their livelihoods. That’s important work! Perhaps when we’re past all this, one lesson we’ll have learned is that when things are good, that’s the best time to relax. Because when things are bad, working hard might be our best option to keep us going.

CARES Act, PPP, etc.

Speaking of working hard, several of my colleagues and I have pulled together a number of different resources in response to CARES Act becoming law:

  • For Gusto Partners: Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) reporting for Gusto customers is now live. The payroll documentation you and your clients need for the loan application is now available in Gusto from the COVID-19 tab in your clients’ accounts. Urge your clients to talk with their banks today to get the application process started. The in-app page also provides information about alternate funding sources if your clients’ banks are not prepared to support PPP tomorrow.
  • A post on the CARES Act.
  • Another one on the Paycheck Protection Program.
  • “Set Reminder” to my colleague’s, Will Lopez, live YouTube webinar on April 7. It will cover the relief for individuals and businesses provided by CARES and PPP.

Exit polling found that 62% of employees who worked on these resources did so sans pants. Regardless, we hope you find them informative and useful.

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Caleb Newquist Caleb is Editor-at-Large at Gusto. In 2009, he became the founding editor of Going Concern, the one-of-a-kind voice on the accounting profession, serving in the role for 9 years. Prior to Going Concern, Caleb worked as a CPA for nearly 6 years in New York and Denver. He lives in Denver with his wife, two daughters, and two cats.
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