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As of writing this blog on March 17, the positive cases of coronavirus are increasing every day, all colleges, schools, coaching classes, theatres, etc are closed. The government is advising businesses to implement work-from-home wherever possible. Several companies have already asked their workforce to work from home e.g. Zoho.

As a CA firm, we are always fighting against due dates. As we all know getting a leave from a CA firm is a herculean task as we are largely people dependent. However, we thought that as a responsible part of the community, our profession should also rise to the occasion and try implementing work from home. We also realized that our Article Trainees were traveling to work only to attend the office, else their colleges and coaching classes are shut. It was not an easy decision to make as this is an unprecedented situation. It is difficult to imagine how can the team work from home and still manage to meet the due dates?

Anyway, we decided to give it a try as it would prepare us if the situation aggravates and if we are not left with a choice but to either work from home or not work at all.

I have listed down the approach taken by us to execute the mission "Home Work", challenges faced by us and how we dealt with the same and our learnings from the exercise.

At the outset, we knew that somewhere the efficiency will take a hit if the team works from home viz-a-viz from our office. Somewhere we had to be okay with it as "something is better than nothing". Also, there was a certain level of faith in team members that they would finish what work is assigned to them irrespective of the time spent by them on work. We were okay if someone worked only for 4 hours but finished work. 

Coronavirus (COVID-19)  CA Firms gearing up for work from home

This led to our first step that was to define what is required to be accomplished by 31st March. We were lucky to have implemented Proactly a year back as who is responsible for what was clearly defined in the system. Also, as we are using it for over a year the team is used to it.

We started by planning for the work till March 31, 2020.

  • Proactly showed a total of 95 regular compliances to be completed for clients till March 31.
  • Further breakdown showed maximum cases were pertaining to GSTR-3B and P Tax Maharashtra
  • We broke down each compliance to different stages to see if each stage can be performed remotely. Example

Table 1

  • Once the work is completed by the staff, they have to update the proof and details in Proactly, this can be verified by the Approver , senior staff. An approval client automatically gets an email about work completion and DashBoard at Proactly gets automatically updated. This way partner can track the completion in real-time
  • For communication among staff members and partners, we use Whatsapp. So it is easier to chat, share files and broadcast messages to all members. (Learning - Whatsapp may lead to a lot of distraction as it also has personal messages. It is better to use something like Slack for internal communication)

Thereafter, we took into account the resources that we had. Our team demography is as follows-

 

Table 2

The first Challenge was to manage the infrastructure as we have desktops and not laptops. The firm has 10 Desktops and 3 Laptops. So we had a shortfall of 9 PCs!!! Two team members had a laptop at their place. Hence, we had to take 7 systems on rent. (Learning - Buy laptops over desktops)

We ensured that everyone was clear what it is that they have to complete.

Another challenge was access to data. Over here also we got lucky as last year we moved to a NAS system. In a NAS system one access the data from anywhere. They just have to login to the cloud to access the data. However, they cannot work live on the data. They need to download the files, work on it and upload it again. (Learning - Move to Google Drive or Dropbox on which one can work live.)

 

It's only a few days since we have move to "Home work" and only time will tell whether it was a good decision or not. But I would say we have begun and as they "Well Begun, Is half done" and we have begun well.

Work from home requires a robust accountability structure. We have a one to one call with team members every morning on what they are required to accomplish throughout the day. At the end of the day, they have to update a Google form in which they need to enter what work did they do and for which client.

I am sure, other CA firms will also consider this option to make a beginning. This also will be beneficial if the threat continues for a longer time and the city gets locked down as already happening in Italy.

The author can also be reached at jigar.shah@skrathi.com

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Category Career, Other Articles by - CA Jigar Shah 



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