Advice and tips for finance teams in times of Covid-19
The top priority for any business right now will be the safety and wellbeing of employees - ensuring everyone is following the government’s strict guidelines for social distancing to help halt the spread of Covid-19.
But as your business looks to protect the health of its employees, it’s also crucial to help protect their jobs too - as well as the longevity of the business. The challenge set out by Covid-19 to all businesses is extremely complicated and difficult, but if finance teams communicate clearly across the business and collaborate, they can help to reduce the impact on revenue, profits and the operation of the business.
Stay up to date
We all know that a lot has changed in the past month and things continue to change. From a business perspective, the finance team will be amongst those having to deal with a raft of new legislation and Government-backed schemes that are dramatically altering the way they do their day-to-day jobs.
From the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and the Statutory Sick Pay relief package, to the 12-month business rates holiday for some businesses and the various levels of new grant funding available, those in finance are arguably at the forefront of a lot of these changes. And, of course, all of this at a time when many teams are not physically working together in the same location and coping with the various challenges that remote working brings.
Staying up-to-date is more vital than ever, as is sharing new information with the team. Ensure that someone is designated to check for regular updates via official sources like the Government’s dedicated business support page. You then need to consider how to communicate any information with your finance colleagues and wider business. Remote meeting apps like Bluejeans, Whatsapp or Zoom can be used for regular team update calls, whilst a shared cloud platform like Access Workspace, will have in-built communication tools, making sharing information and documents simple.
With an increasing number of employees now working from home, expenses is one area to be particularly aware of, especially the PAYE and VAT rules around what can and can’t be claimed. We have produced our own guide on this here.
Goals and budgets
Now is not the time to let team goals and individual objectives fall by the wayside. Tweak and amend them by all means, but it is important that the finance team knows what it is working towards.
Not being together in the office can leave people feeling demotivated, so giving them something concrete to focus on can really help, providing direction and purpose.
From a business continuity perspective, clearly communicated goals and objectives leaves little room for misunderstanding.
The same goes for individual roles and responsibilities, which may have been amended given the current situation. Ensure everyone clearly understands what is expected of them and everything they have to hand to help them achieve it on a daily basis. It is also important to make sure people know the roles of their colleagues too – even though you may be in different locations, you are still one team.
Reviewing and feedback
Just as it is important for the team to have clear goals, it is also vital that employees continue to have their work reviewed and feedback provided, even if you aren’t face-to-face. Even in these unusual trading times, feedback should be respected and acted upon.
Consider using performance management software and appraisal systems to manage the process more efficiently and keep everything on track and in one place ready for the eventual return to the office. Failing that, regular review calls with members of the finance team are a must and make sure you document any actions and outcomes.
It is also important that the team understands that there are still open lines of communication for them to raise any issues or concerns. Equally there should be a shared outlet for colleagues to be able to praise each other during times of remote working, whether that be via group chats or a shared workspace that encourages employees to engage with each other and recognise achievements.
Reporting and shared data
Accurate financial reporting is perhaps now more important than ever, with many businesses having to make big decisions almost daily.
Single sources of shared data will allow the team to quickly and easily monitor, analyse and report on the financial health and performance of the business, with other parts of the business being able to feed in too. It is likely that the senior team is going to require more regular updates than usual at this time, so you have to make sure you have everything you need to hand. Remember, real-time visibility will ensure informed decisions are made.
It is also worth remembering that times like these really do highlight poor practices and in-efficiencies. Finance leaders should be taking the time to review how the team operates and consider how new and more effective ways of working can be implemented.
Not just about work
Don’t forget - it is also important to carry on finding ways to socialise with colleagues to help boost team morale.
Virtual after work drinks are becoming a staple for many of us now, via apps like Zoom, Houseparty, Skype and Google Hangouts. It is a great way to engage with your team on a more personal level and also for connecting with people from other parts of the business that you may not have had chance to catch up with for a while.
It is important to remind ourselves that we are part of a team and that we are in this together.