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Good Things Can Come Out of Bad Times

Caleb Newquist Editor-at-Large, Gusto 
remote work

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Embracing the bad

Which letter did you draw in the COVID-19 recession pool? UWNike Swoosh? If you end up with æ or ø, let me know and I’ll gladly trade you my V.

It’s understandable that people are eager to get past all the bad stuff happening and go straight to the part where everything is good again. Things are difficult right now for many businesses and workers, and almost everyone expects them to get more difficult. Not to mention, we were in a public health crisis first, and that’s why we’re all in this economic crisis together. Even worse, we have to face them without retail therapy or sports obsession.

So, yeah, unfortunately, we might soak in this alphabet soup for a while. Many workers and business owners will have to start over completely. But is it possible that that’s a good thing?

I lost my Big 4 accounting firm job in the last crisis. I’d had a good run, but whooo boy was I unhappy at the end of my time there. In my exit interview, I got a packet of materials that were supposed to help me figure out what I was going to do next. I could have easily dumped those in the trash, but I actually filled them out a week or so later—and realized I had no idea what I was going to do. But I definitely knew what I didn’t want to do, and that was public accounting. After nearly six years in the profession, I couldn’t hack it anymore. Didn’t want to hack it anymore. In the process, I realized that I only want to read stuff and write stuff. It wasn’t exactly a well thought out approach to life and career. Despite my worst efforts, I wound up starting a website for people in public accounting to read, and it set me off into a completely new direction.

What I never
 think about is: What if a financial crisis hadn’t happened and I hadn’t lost that job? Would I still be at that firm? Probably not, but I have to think that I would’ve ended up being an accountant somewhere else. I consider myself pretty lucky that that did not happen. I don’t have anything against accountants, obviously; I’m here talking to you all, aren’t I?

The point is that a personal and professional crisis is a perfect excuse to make drastic changes. I am certainly not recommending you drop everything and try to become a blogger. (I’m not even sure “bloggers” are a thing anymore.) But when everything around us is falling apart, all we can really think about is rebuilding.

So if you’ve felt stuck in some aspect of your career or your firm, why not try to change it? Or maybe you make a suggestion to a client that you’ve been afraid to make. Or if you have clients who are feeling paralyzed by this whole situation, now just might be the time that you suggest they throw out the book and do the thing they’ve been afraid to do all this time. Nothing in this newsletter is advice of any kind, I’m just saying: No one is going to blame you for trying to do something weird right now. Because, in case you hadn’t noticed, everything is weird right now. 

WFH: The backlash

Working from home has been a new experience for a lot of folks, and also, I have to imagine, pretty exciting. Waking up later, skipping the commute, letting some personal hygiene go… Plus, as we’ve talked about before, there was a bunch of free time:

[M]illions sheltered at home for what was originally thought to be a temporary hiatus. Many mapped out plans to fill time they would’ve spent commuting to take up new hobbies, like learning a foreign language, baking or getting into the best shape of their lives. It looked like the beginnings of a telecommuting revolution.

Well, an interesting thing happened on the road to WFH Utopia. Six weeks in and everyone’s over it:

[P]eople are overworked, stressed, and eager to get back to the office. In the U.S., homebound employees are logging three hours more per day on the job than before city and state-wide lockdowns, according to data from NordVPN, which tracks when users connect and disconnect from its service.


“When you’re virtual
 you’re less distracted—nobody’s disappearing for coffee for a while or […] to socialize,” says a guy, and now I’m confused. Shouldn’t it be easier to disappear? All we need to do is get up, get the coffee, and not go back to the computer. Alas, we’ve managed to do the exact opposite. Now it seems that we’re moving even faster toward a more all-work-all-the-time dystopia. It’s just ironic that we had to leave work to accelerate it.

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.

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Updated: January 21, 2021

Caleb Newquist
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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