April 17, 2020

Lessons from the Lockdown

Lessons from the Lockdown

For many of us in the accounting profession, this year’s busy season was one of the strangest ones in recent memory. Who would have thought that April 15, the traditional tax filing deadline for as long as I can remember, wouldn’t be a deadline and we’d spend it hunkered down in our homes and juggling working with home schooling our children?

The good news is that it looks like the curve is starting to flatten when it comes to the spread of the coronavirus, and we’re starting to see talk of getting back to work, in some places as soon as May 1. As we previously announced, Marcum’s offices will remain closed through May 4 and we’ll most likely soon announce an extension.

The last few weeks have been hard on everyone. On the other hand, I have to say it’s been eye opening. Here are three things I’ve learned:

It’s a lot easier to get work done in the office. Flexible work policies are a core tenet of our HR philosophy, and I’m proud we were one of the first middle-market accounting firms to really embrace the concept. One of the greatest benefits I’m finding is being home for dinner every night (not to mention breakfast, lunch, cocktails and snacks) – a luxury when you have a travel schedule like mine – and finally having time to catch up on binge watching multiple shows at once with Tracy and to spend the kind of time with my kids that my schedule usually doesn’t permit.

That said, I never appreciated the solitude of my office at Marcum as much as I do now that I’m working from home, with my kids doing their schoolwork around me. It’s given me newfound respect for our many team members who have taken advantage of our flex policies over the years to work productively from home.

Water cooler chit-chat is important. Work can get intense when it’s just you and your laptop, iPhone and iPad. And a lot of smart thinking and new ideas come out of spontaneous, unplanned conversations that take place in the hallway. Not to mention the professional camaraderie.

I hope our team will do more of this when we get back to work – even if we’re all chatting through a mask, six feet apart.

There’s no substitute for clear communication. Many business owners whose businesses have been hit hard by the shutdown got their hopes up when the SBA signaled that advances from the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program would arrive within days of a successful application.

Now it’s become clear, amidst very high demand, that many business owners are going to have to wait a while for both EIDL and Paycheck Protection Program loans. How much longer, we don’t know. And now that the programs have officially run out of money, it’s up to Congress to increase badly needed funding.

It’s too late to turn back the clock, but imagine how much more smoothly the rollout of these programs would have gone if the communications teams at the SBA and Treasury had anticipated what was likely to happen and managed expectations. It’s a good lesson for every business leader.

Hopefully, all of the disruption we’re experiencing will be in the rear view mirror soon.

Marcum does business in many states and cities. As of this writing Los Angeles and New York State have extended their versions of stay at home until May 15, Connecticut seems to be May 20 and Ohio announced May 1. Each of these dates have conditions attached, and the guidelines announced as recommendations to the states yesterday have three phases, with 14-day waiting periods for each, so if you do the math and everything in any particular location goes perfectly, the soonest any place might return to what used to be normal is 42 days from whenever all of this starts. If that turns out to be May 1, as in Ohio, then 42 days later is June 11, or in Connecticut 42 days from May 20 is July 31.

So maybe we get going by Labor Day? In the meantime, stay safe and healthy and remember we are all in this together!