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Living under lockdown

Wondering how everyone is getting on as we head into the first weekend of enforced home working

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Can’t really come up with the right words to describe the last week, so I thought maybe AccountingWEB members could help tell the broader story of how the coronavirus lockdown has unfolded in the UK.

Even before Monday’s “stay at home” order from Downing Street, we had seen how social distancing measures had frozen activity in the hospitality, events and travel industries. Some pubs and clubs defied the gloom (and public health advice) over the weekend, but by Tuesday morning, they were shutting their doors along with non-essential shops.

We’ve already reported on the strains placed on internet provision, but have a less clear picture of how the lockdown is affecting services industries where people can work from home. How is everyone coping as accounting professionals?

One practitioner told me how they had to be a lot more than just beancounters for their clients. “Information is just flooding down the internet and much of it rumour and not right… I’ve tried to send emails round giving correct info to those who I think might need to know a specific detail (ie not automatically to everyone as other accountants seem to be doing!)

“I’ve had clients crying when they had to shut up shop – you have to be very sympathetic and say the right words. Some of my clients will never open again.”

Like my source, we’re busier than ever on AccountingWEB trying to find out the right information and disseminate it to the people who need it. It’s a job you can do from home, but some of our contributors have been laid low by the virus. We’re also discovering another side-effect of the lockdown: delayed onset back and muscle pain.

If our experiences are anything to go by, people working for long hours at the kitchen table or with laptops on their sofas is going to cause a secondary epidemic of symptoms caused by poor posture.

How has the lockdown affected you and your working lives? And I thought it might help some people feel better if there was somewhere people could share a moan or two.

Replies (7)

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By Duggimon
26th Mar 2020 15:51

I've found myself working more than ever, it's a second January. I'm not going to complain because this time around it feels like a more necessary service to our clients than just avoiding late fees, and I'm lucky that I can do 95% of my job at home.

I've been getting up in the mornings and working from the time my commute would normally start, right through to when I'd get home, and answering emails all through the evenings with no end in sight. I have a growing list of all the people to whom I've said "I'll let you know as soon as I have any details on that" and I'm assuming it's going to become more intense once the long awaited announcement regarding the self employed comes in.

I think our business is going to be ok, and I think a lot of our clients will weather the storm with the help of the measures being announced, provided the funds arrive in time, and this has been a real relationship builder with those clients who are particularly worried. It's difficult to find positives in the situation when so many are uncertain about the future, but that's definitely been one.

I'm very worried about my plants though, I watered them just before leaving on Friday but I'm not sure they'll last more than a couple of weeks without further intervention, I should have brought them home.

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blue sheep
By Nigel Henshaw
26th Mar 2020 16:37

Same as Duggimon really but this has been worse than January because at least in January there is the financial carrot at the end when you count the beans (metaphors being mixed I know), in this situation it feels more like a stick waiting for us at the end.

However, hopefully we have shown clients that we a) really care about their welfare, b) are in control of the flow of information, c) are able to provide accurate information relevant to them personally and d) that we are accessible when needed.

As a business we should be ok provided it doesn't go on too long, but I can see cashflow issues in a few months time when clients need returns doing as deadlines loom but might still be struggling financially.

I am thinking of suggesting once again that annually billed clients move to monthly even the much smaller ones in the hope that it will help both us and them, obviously not the right time right now but perhaps in a couple of months

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paddle steamer
26th Mar 2020 17:16

A different social dynamic and all somewhat strange.

I am in my study surrounded by too many files for the room size wading through tenant requests for rent allievating measures and generally getting teed up for next week when we will really get to see what we are dealing with re rent non payments.

Son is over the landing in another improvised set up study writing software for the Scottish Government (about which I know nothing) and spending a lot of time on the phone and typing at a speed I can only dream about.

Daughter at an improvised desk in her bedroom, in her second week working in a graduate planning role (the joys of s106's etc), researching all sorts of things no sane human really wants to know about .

My other half using the desk in the lounge as the administrative hub for the school she works for that is now barely open (children of essential workers only)

It all feels somewhat surreal and the weather today, grey, damp and a little cold, is not conducive to pleasant gardening though I think I will leave you now to take a walk up and down it a few times.

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By SXGuy
27th Mar 2020 08:54

I have 3 telephone appointments next week. When usually I'd have about 15. Everyone is holding off because they have no income. And the delay to the retention scheme payout isn't helping. As such my income has basically gone down to hardly anything.

I have been busy trying to advise clients of their options, but nothing generating a fee.

I'm fortunate enough to have a least enough savings to get through the next 3 months, and I just have to hope after that people will be back to working.

I think its gonna be a very late year for all of us getting the yearly clients done. Everything will be pushed back to middle to late months of the year I reckon with everyone trying to earn a living again.

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By pauljohnston
27th Mar 2020 17:33

Looking forward to working less hours and neing able to go out at the weekend to the sea.

Until then like most it is nose to the grindstone. Wife can not understand as she is retired and thinks that I have less to do now----if only

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John Stokdyk, AccountingWEB head of insight
By John Stokdyk
28th Mar 2020 13:15

Thanks for sharing your stories. It came a day or two later, but there's a telling post from another Aweb member about the tough week they've had. You can see it here:

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By johnhemming
28th Mar 2020 13:29

I have been mainly working on writing the interfaces into Open Banking (to enable the download of bank statements into accounting software). From that perspective working from home is not that much of an issue although communication with my technical assistant is harder.

People may be interested in hear that I have had a number of emails sent from HMRC between 7am and 8am. Clearly their people (on the tech side) who are working from home are starting probably at the time their commute would start.

I have had to go to my office twice a day to spray the door handles. I have commercial tenants who are a domiciliary care organisation (ie key workers) and all my staff otherwise are working from home hence I am the man with the Dettol. My office is in the same suburb of Birmingham so it takes a short time to get there.

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