The new WFH: Working from holidayby
Every cloud has a silver lining. Even a pandemic might help accountants to extend their summer holidays.
We are now well into our second year of living with coronavirus.
Pleasingly, there are signs that while we may not be able to see the end of the road, at least the prospect of reaching a new normal thanks to the power of vaccination is becoming a distinct possibility, even if the timing is open to debate.
Many of the consequences of Covid-19 have led to trials and tribulations for the whole community including accountants.
It is chilling to recall that something like 150,000 people have died in this country, while many others have suffered serious illness.
At a working level, maintaining contact with clients has become significantly more difficult, while even keeping track of colleagues can be something of a challenge.
However, there have been upsides for many of us. Judging by the response to proposals from firms large and small that their staff can work from home some or all of the time, the prospect of avoiding the daily commute and spending more time with the family, albeit on call rather more than we would like, has generally gone down well.
Indeed, the majority of accountants with whom this writer has had contact are feeling highly positive about a future in which they can balance home and work life more evenly than would ever have been possible but for the advent of a terrifying virus.
An allied development that is becoming increasingly apparent is probably a mixed blessing that will please some and distress others. That is the ability to work not so much from wherever you lay your hat as wherever you lay your laptop and mobile.
A variety of friends have managed to pursue their business activities very successfully from far-flung places.
Over the next month or so, which may not be entirely coincidental given that the school holidays have just started, I know of people who will be enjoying extended family holidays in France, Devon, Portugal and quite possibly beyond if circumstances and the government permit while working to varying degrees.
To take a simple example of a major beneficiary of new working practices, I can cite a friend who happens to be a partner in a firm of solicitors but might as easily be an accountant.
Whereas in the past, he would have spent the traditional fortnight in a French cottage enjoying leisure time with his wife and daughter, this year the trip will last a month.
Inevitably, there has to be a quid pro quo if he is taking a month away from the office. Intermittently through the early part of this period, he will be checking emails and possibly carrying out more significant projects if there is a requirement, which he thinks unlikely.
The idea is that for the last couple of weeks, he will be working relatively normally from the French hinterland, although with the holiday season work may be reasonably quiet.
My friend regards this as a great development. It means that he can spend a month on holiday with the family rather than a fortnight and is quite happy to accept working at convenient moments (okay, occasionally inconvenient ones as well) while poised to head for the swimming pool, the beach or perhaps take a day off when circumstances permit.
Some might regard this as being the worst of all possible worlds, on call 24/7 and never escaping the business environment.
This comes down to a question of attitude. Some are unwilling to relax unless they have a complete cessation of contact with anything to do with work. They would hate this kind of scenario.
Others find themselves able to say no when the need requires, even to the pushiest of clients. They can enjoy a wonderful elongated summer enjoying the pleasures of the sea, the golf course, the beach or just relaxing with the family, and return more refreshed than ever before.
As time passes, it will be fascinating to see whether some professionals fully relocate say from London to Devon or Inverness, maybe even Paris or New York, while carrying on their full-time jobs, accepting that they will occasionally need to pop into town for meetings with clients, colleagues and maybe even friends.
There may be terrifying times ahead but the new normal could offer exciting possibilities as well.