April 16, 2020
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WFH is normal now
Right now, a lot of people are asking questions like, “What will things be like after this?” In the accounting world, at least, I think everyone will finally realize that you don’t actually need to work in an office where your co-workers and bosses can see you at any given moment (aka “face time”).
You see, I’m old enough to remember when my physical presence in the office was the only acceptable evidence of my productivity. The thinking of the partners and managers being, “I see Caleb at work, so I know he’s working.” This logic applied to the opposite condition as well: “Huh, I don’t see Caleb at work. He must not be working.” If I wasn’t working, then I couldn’t possibly be getting things done.
When technology (i.e., portable computers, the internet, and wireless connectivity) made it possible to get things done from anywhere, it suddenly dawned on most people that being present in an office wasn’t necessary. At the very least, it was optional. The accounting profession wasn’t too hot on this idea. Again, the thinking being, “Well, sure, I can email Caleb at 10 p.m. demanding a status update on those review notes, but I still can’t see him at work, so he must not be working.”
Little by little, evidence began to emerge that proved this wrong. People didn’t need to be in an office to be productive; they were more productive working out of the office, in fact. Accounting came begrudgingly along. Imagine the Gartner Hype Curve, if you must. For remote work, accounting’s trough of disillusionment seemed longer than others.
Then came the coronavirus, and everyone had to get on board, more or less overnight:
For white-collar, salaried workers, coronavirus is, in a way, offering a natural experiment, by forcing companies to let people work from home, create their own schedules and spend more time with their families. It could convince companies that constant face time is unnecessary, said the sociologists Erin L. Kelly and Phyllis Moen, who this year published “Overload: How Good Jobs Went Bad and What We Can Do About It.”
“Part of the reason companies haven’t really changed is it’s a shift in mind-set to not focus on hours and being instantly responsive to a text at 9 p.m.,” Ms. Kelly said. “It’s a shift to working on the assumption that employees should decide when, where and how they do their work.”
We’ll see how this plays out. Much like the hope that forced socialization with co-workers would go away only to see a slew of virtual happy hours and water cooler sessions come out of the woodwork, “face time” may just morph into “Zoom time,” which still has some of the same problems and many of its own unique pitfalls.
Still. As someone who’s bemoaned face time in accounting for quite a while, I’m pleased that we’ve finally gotten to a place where everyone has little choice but to accept that it is irrelevant to productivity. Would’ve been nice if it hadn’t taken a global pandemic to get us here, though.
COVID news you can use
This section features programs, assistance, and other coronavirus-related information from the past week. It is not meant to be a comprehensive list, so if you see something that we should include here, let us know, or check out our regularly updated relief resources post.
- Yelp is waiving its advertising fees and providing other relief for restaurant and nightlife businesses.
- Goldman Sachs and other partners are providing $50 million in loans for small businesses in Texas.
- The City of Tampa, Fla. has established a relief program that will provide direct payments to eligible small businesses of $4,000 for rent or mortgage and up to $1,000 for utilities.
- The Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce has started a Mainstreet Preservation Fund for minority-owned businesses in Utah. It will award grants up to $5,000 to employers with fewer than 50 employees.
Fresh from Gusto
- Gusto Partners: As part of the CARES Act, your clients can defer the employer portion of their Social Security taxes for the rest of 2020. Learn more and turn on tax deferrals in the COVID-19 tab of your Gusto account
- New York Times writer and small business owner Steve Friess has five ways small businesses are coping with the COVID-19 crisis.
- My colleague Will Lopez shares his three top apps for running your practice from home.
- Becoming a Conscious Advisor: Leading Self and Clients Through COVID-19 with Amber Setter on April 20.
- How to Safely De-grow and Lead Later with Jason Blumer on May 13.
Read with Gusto
- UK auditors are under pressure to issue going concern opinions, and that’s causing some tension.
- The IRS isn’t processing paper returns.
- You can get a goat or llama on your Zoom call for under $100.
- Call it a comeback: More people are talking on the phone.
- “You can’t just stand in the living room and sing ‘Scooby-Doo.’ I’m on the phone.”
Want more On the Margins? Check out past editions in the archive.