Stats & facts: Accountants’ lives during lockdown

25th Apr 2020
Brought to you by
Accountancy Manager
Share this content

We're not the first to say it - the last two months will go down in history. Perhaps it’s a comfort right now to think of our present as the past? Nevertheless, we can all agree, the sooner the coronavirus does become history, the better. 

As a nation, we've become obsessed with statistics. Mapping our journey to this point, comparing data between countries and keeping an even closer eye on the stock market (again).

At AccountancyManager, we started to spot some massive spikes in our usage data mid-way through March. So we dug a little deeper, asking our users how their lives have changed, what their main challenges have been and what has helped.

88% report an increase in workload 

Over half of respondents reported a significant increase in workload since the beginning of March -  with over a quarter seeing a slight increase. Interestingly, almost 9% have experienced a decreased workload.

How’s your workload been since the start of March?

Chart showing accountants' workload

The main challenge? Understanding and communicating Government support

While The Chancellor’s announcement on Friday 20th March was met by enormous relief (and the odd tear), it certainly raised a lot of questions. Over the subsequent two weeks, Rishi Sunak announced a scheme to support the self-employed. And by the 3rd of April the government had already released early figures on the Coronavirus Business Interruption Scheme (CBILS) - which has been ‘bolstered’ to reach more businesses.

What has been your biggest challenge since the start of March?

Chart showing accountants' main challenges

63.6% of respondents cited evolving Government schemes and getting the right information to their clients as their biggest challenge since the start of March. 

The enormous amount of Government assistance over a variety of different areas, trying to get to grips with the practicalities and interpretations of how the varying schemes will work and dealing with clients that will receive little or no help at all, and have been forced to close their businesses.”

- David Shephard, One Plus One Accountants Ltd

How have you responded?

Keeping clients up to date

In direct correlation with the highest rated challenge, we saw an incredible surge in the number of emails sent from accountants to their clients via AccountancyManager. By the end of March this was up by a huge 430%, text messages also rose - by 100%.

This is further supported by the feature rated most useful by users: ‘the ability to send bulk emails and segment recipients based on business type’.

How has AccountancyManager helped you most since the start of March?

Bar chart showing how AM has helped accountants

Bulk emails - customised by business type

Andy Downs at Balloon Accounting has been sending highly tailored content to his clients, ensuring they get the most relevant information for their business: “The canned messages enabled me to set up a different message for each type of government help, eg one for help re VAT deferral, one for Mortgage Holiday, one for CBILS, one for SEISS etc. This enabled me to provide bespoke emails to each client by dropping in the canned message that applied specifically to them.”

'Business type' is just one of many filters you can apply to targeted bulk emails (or 'canned messages') - choosing which clients recieve certain information. In his review of this article, James Byrne (AccountancyManager CEO) adds: 

"Our filter list is much more powerful than that, for example you can isolate a 'VAT flat rate client' as opposed to standard VAT etc."

Good to know.

Staying on top of day-to-day tasks

Understandably, the third most challenging aspect of the last couple of months (after ‘sharing government support’ and ‘working from home’) was maintaining business as usual. As such, our customers are seeing the benefits of automation and cloud-based practice management now more than ever. 

Great to have a cloud system so we can all log in remotely without any trouble. E-signing capabilities mean clients don't need to sign off in person. Automated reminders have been great for keeping the day-to-day things rolling on.”

- Tory Wagg, Panthera Ltd

On the flipside, the problems with legacy server-based accounting systems and paper-based clients have been magnified.

My tax/accounts production product is not cloud-based and I had a computer malfunction which has meant I have been unable to use it for almost 2 weeks now.”

- Grace Heathfield, Grace Heathfield & Co Ltd

Juggling extra work alongside ‘business as usual’, demands some serious re-prioritisation. So AccountancyManager users are turning to their task lists to help. They rated task and deadline management as the second most useful feature throughout March and April - matched by a 50% rise in ‘custom tasks’ created by our users throughout March. 

Custom tasks

As well as automatic tasks - generated from your clients’ accounting deadlines - you can add your own ‘custom tasks’ and, if you choose, set them to be recurring. These can be for any other tasks you or your team need to do, like sending out customer updates.

We’re using tasks to keep on top of most important work and deadlines.”

- Julie Allan, JLA Accounting Ltd

Staying connected with clients and colleagues

Central client database and timeline of client contact

With everyone working from different places, having a central database for all your client information and documents is crucial. Angela Peden is thankful for the call logs, keeping every member of the team on the same page:

Call logs (on the client timeline) so all team know contents of phone calls”

- Angela Peden, HJP Chartered 

Receiving and sending client documents

Trying to get documents from paper-based clients came joint fourth in the current challenges facing our users. This aligns with an 20% increase in AccountancyManager portal sign ups. These can only be coming from existing clients, as the rate of new clients added has stayed stable. The portal is a secure online space where you can share documents and forms with your clients, get e-signatures and create custom digital forms.

We’re getting more clients signed up to the portal so they can upload documents and we can still do their accounts/tax returns without too much disruption."

- Caroline Dinsmore, CP Accountancy Ltd

Leigh Coombs, a recent AccountancyManager convert, is already seeing AM align practice operations with business goals:

We are still implementing [AM] however emailing en masse and the client portal are totally transforming our practice to where we want to be.”

- Leigh Coombs, IT All Figures

Support for AccountancyManager users

Our support team has seen a slight increase in support calls over this period - mainly due to users starting to use more of the software. In our weekly all-staff Zoom meetings, they have proudly reported a satisfaction score of 97% - 99% every week since the start of March.

85% of respondents like working from home

Although working from home for prolonged periods is new to over half our respondents, the vast majority are enjoying it - each providing anywhere from one to five reasons as to why.

Charts showing how accountants are working/feeling

Goodbye, commute. Hello, freedom. 

With constant filing deadlines every month, it seems accountants revel in the freedom that exists beyond these repetitive, time-sensitive tasks. Securing the top spot for our respondents' favourite thing about remote working was ‘flexibility and freedom’. 

What are your favourite things about working from home?

Bar chart showing what accountants like about working from home

More relaxed structure, working from the sofa occasionally and biscuits”

- Tom Payne, Abaqus Limited

Freedom and flexibility

Many respondents are appreciating the absence of a strict timetable and spending their downtime how they like. For them, freedom and flexibility takes many forms, popular answers included: 

  • structuring your day yourself/working when it suits 
  • doing odd jobs/cleaning the house
  • eating/cooking when and what you like
  • wearing PJs/yoga kits/anything but a suit
  • listening to your own music 
  • TV/Netflix breaks
  • ...and only making one cup of tea!

Flexibility

increased productivity

less travelling time”

- Terry Rust, N. Trust Accountancy

No commute

Traffic jams, wasted travel time, petrol costs and train fares all featured numerous times in the answers - as well as calculations of the exact mileage saved a week (naturally). While some are enjoying staying in bed longer, Mark Francis at Francis Bookkeeping Solutions likes starting work a bit earlier:

I get to work earlier, not far to go for lunch and always have my wife or kids to talk to as I usually work alone.”

- Mark Francis, Francis Bookkeeping Solutions

We’ll leave you with our two favourite answers...

Anuj Patel summed up (more succinctly than we ever have) all the ways AccountancyManager has helped him manage Everest & Co from home:

Timeline, Mass emails, Concurrent text messages, Time recording for team and Automatic doc requests”

- Anuj Patel, Everest & Co

And, in answer to ‘what have been your biggest challenges?’, one respondent simply put “COVID-19”.

Well… quite.