Community has a new look. But we’re still connected.

Shutterstock_1044017923At the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants, we have a responsibility to our members and the accounting profession. A key component of this responsibility is ensuring that we provide informed and robust intelligence across a range of topics. In collaboration with our partner EY Seren, we’re researching the human impact of the COVID-19 crisis and its impact on the profession, its practitioners and the wider community.

The content in the report — Human Signals: New patterns of behavior and the accounting profession — aims to empower readers and provide guidance on how to navigate a highly unpredictable future.

The pandemic has changed the face of communities, meaning the crisis has changed how we gather, socialize and collaborate. For some, the loss of their original routines has left them uncertain of how to connect; for others, it has inspired opportunities to connect in new ways.

Revive a sense of belonging

Lockdown restrictions have removed familiar elements from our daily lives, leading to a collective sense of loss. And too many people have experienced loss at a deeply personal level. The changes to our daily lives need to be reflected in the way we conduct business.

What you can do:

  • Recognize the vulnerability of clients and colleagues as a fact, regardless of how confidently they present themselves.
  • Normalize emotions encouraging open communication.
  • Review business operations. What crucial elements of the human experience are missing? What are ways to facilitate human connection?
  • Think of the ways to foster a sense of belonging remotely and support your peers who have created ways to encourage meaningful connection.

Reinvent work routines

On the back of this crisis, the variety of altered work patterns has yielded an organic real-life experiment.

Creativity has flourished. Professionals have launched their own webinars; virtual meetings and networking events happen while people ride stationary bikes; team-building exercises include teaching colleagues how to make a dish or cocktail.

On the flip side of the creativity boon, some people struggle with establishing a routine and using time efficiently.

What you can do:

  • Clarify the purpose of the work routines you are trying to recreate. You may discover they never had a significant purpose.
  • Leverage these times to consider and test new ideas. Clients may even be open to brainstorming ideas for new service offerings with you.
  • Share your strategies for spending time efficiently with colleagues who are missing the old routines.
  • Consider the similar changes in work patterns on your colleagues and clients. Do you see any benefits in revised models?
  • Consider newly discovered digital ways of connecting with people as an opportunity to expand your client base or join new communities.

Burst bubbles

Social-media algorithms tend to drive people into extreme filter bubbles, fostering polarized points of view and behaviors and creating two camps that become entrenched. We’re seeing this division play out across racial, ethnic, political and economic lines.

There’s a risk that COVID-19 has created two new camps — those who are negatively affected by the lockdown restrictions and those who are neutrally affected. Those having a negative experience represent more than half of the population and tend to already be disadvantaged, with women and ethnic minorities disproportionately vulnerable. In contrast, roughly 30% of the population has remained neutral, retaining most of their income and adapting relatively easily to working from home.

What you can do:

  • Return to your company’s mission and purpose with strong and affirmative positions on current events. Provide forums for debate and discussion around divisive issues. Healing requires open and rounded discussion.
  • Confirm your commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion.
  • Make sure you aren’t inadvertently channeling your workforce into two streams with the neutral group being looked after at the expense of the group that’s been affected negatively.
  • Review how machine-driven technologies are being applied, so that they don’t unintentionally encourage polarization.
  • Expand connections between employees and clients to encourage awareness and empathy and to burst filter bubbles.
  • Ensure that you are aware of and understand how to meet the daily needs of your teams. Consider normalizing practices, like the increased need for flexible working hours in order to care for children.

Lockdown restrictions have shown that we can adapt quickly. But check in with your teams and clients to nurture the relationships that have been built over all these years.

Sue Warman, Vice President - People, Association of International Certified Professional Accountants