COVID-19: New Challenges For Management Accountants In The ‘Work From Home’ Environment

Sazzad Hassan-theincap

About The Author:

Mohammad Sazzad Hassan

CMA (Aus) CHRM (ACI)

Regional Director 

ICMA Australia

Sazzad Hassan has more than 19 years’ experience in Management Accounting and HR Field. Since October 2018, he started a new journey as a Regional Director of the Institute of Certified Management Accountants Australia in Bangladesh. Currently, in Bangladesh, there are 25 Qualified Management Accountants from the Institute. He has more than five (5) years’ experience in Corporate Coaching both in Bangladesh and abroad. Besides this, he is renowned as a professional Psychotherapist and Corporate Coach. Also, Regional Director of NLP Success Academy, which offers corporate training solutions.

COVID-19: New Challenges For Management Accountants In The ‘Work From Home’ Environment

After completion of our CMA Workshop in Dhaka on 14th March 2020, our Professor returned safely to Australia. By this time Australian Government made it official for all those entering this Country must undergo a 2-week self-quarantine. It is now illegal in Australia to wander outside your home.

Now COVID-19 creates an alarming situation in Bangladesh. When The InCAP asked for the Articles from ICMA Australia Bangladesh Chapter, regarding the current economic situation and suggestion, by this time outbreaks of COVID 19 creates a volatile condition in all sectors of our life. The government might lockdown vulnerable areas based on the scenario of the pandemic virus. General people are confused between Isolation and Quarantine. Rickshaw pullers, Uber drivers’ are facing a real hard time. Even a lot of people suspended their Maid Servant for the time being. Low-income daily labors are already going through a tough time. If suddenly lockdown takes place, what might happen or what would be the strategy to overcome (as we don’t have any control of anything in this global issue) from the situation, all the companies in Bangladesh are working on it. I personally find it very difficult to contact our members over the phone or email. Everyone is very busy. Specifically, the NGOs and RMGs sectors are working till late at night, even on Friday. It is now an unavoidable situation to Work From Home. As one of the precautions to decrease the spread of the contagious virus is maintaining Social Distance.

The management accountant’s job is one that most definitely fits into the ‘work-from-home’ category in almost any organization. It is difficult to envisage an organization that will require a management accountant to come to the office. Some exceptions may be management accountants who are working in a project team or a manufacturing location, but even here, the business analysis and information for decision making can be provided remotely.

However, when working remotely, even management accountants need to consider the following issues.

A. Professional Life:

Guideline from the Chief Executive Officer of ICMA Australia Prof. Janek Ratnatunga Ph.D., FCA FCMA

1. Sharing Excel Files

This is the number-one issue that management accountants face, i.e.:

“How to share and update Excel files in multiple locations with full security and without any broken links?”

Even before the global pandemic, many management accountants have been using Microsoft Excel for teamwork, where they needed to work on Excel spreadsheets that are linked to other Excel spreadsheets in the organization. For example, working on budgets that are consolidated with external links in the traditional ‘pyramids of spreadsheets’ fashion, and similar financial models. In the past, when they needed to share an Excel workbook with another team member, they would send it as an email attachment or save their Excel data to PDF for printing. While fast and convenient, the former method created multiple versions of the same document, and the latter produced a secure though non-editable copy.

Further, when working remotely, management accountants need to email excel spreadsheets that are linked to being downloaded to a remote computer. Once emailed, in most circumstances. These links will often not work.

The recent versions of Excel 2010, 2013, and 2016 make it easy to share and collaborate on single workbooks.

By sharing an Excel file, you are giving other users access to the same document and allow them to make edits simultaneously, which saves you the trouble of keeping track of multiple versions. One of the better tutorials of how to do this can be found on Svetlana Cheusheva’s (2018) blog, which covers the following:

  • How to share Excel file for multiple users
  • How to share Excel workbook and protect change tracking
  • Limitations of shared Excel file
  • How to edit Excel shared workbook
  • Resolve conflicting changes in a shared workbook
  • How to merge different copies of a shared workbook
  • Remove users from Excel shared workbook
  • How to unshare a workbook in Excel
  • Share Excel workbook using OneDrive

2. Maintaining Client-Server Architecture in Excel

Most will be surprised that Excel can give you the same functionality as an ERP on the cloud, but even better. Further, one need not use the most commonly used function in all ERPs – i.e., “Export to Excel” – as it’s already in Excel!

Just as the architecture of an ERP system is client-server, Excel spreadsheets can also be architected in this way. All that is required is to separate the data from the presentation, logic, and the use-interface.

The data can be stored in any location that the spreadsheets can access. For example, from simple tables in an Access database on a shared drive to a SQL Server on the corporate cloud service, or Microsoft Azure. Amazon Web Services is also a popular choice in organizations today. The client-server technique is the same but entirely driven by Excel.

3. Boosting Internet Bandwidth

The sudden increase in working from home is presenting problems as well as opportunities. On the one hand, start-ups such as Slack and Zoom and established giants, including Google and Microsoft are offering their tools for free, in the hope that people who start using them in a crisis may carry on once normality returns. On the other hand, internet service providers have come under pressure to lift bandwidth caps, so remote workers do not get cut off from their employers

4. Factoring Home Office Costs

If working at home becomes the new status quo, management accountants need to consider the cost implications of providing bandwidth boosts to all employees in remote sites on a more permanent basis. In addition to internet access, home offices will need to be set-up with computer equipment, telephone, printer, scanner, shredders, filing cabinets, and secure authentication devices. 

Some individuals may not have all the equipment they need, or it may not be fit for purpose. For example, it is likely that most households have only one WiFi router which is used for all purposes, and may not have had any default settings changed.

5. Information Security and Data Protection

Management accountants will need to understand how domestically held equipment affects information security and data protection, as this will highlight what risks may be introduced and the information an organization’s employee may need to control those risks.

It may be that home working has different risks for different individuals, and it is important to consider whether the home-based employee will need any additional training or equipment to protect information processed from home. Such training or equipment costs will be significant in a large company. It is also necessary to understand what effects the increased range of equipment will have on an organization’s IT team’s ability to provide help desk support, and the costs involved; particularly around securing devices and the information on those devices.

B. Personal Life:

Keep your family healthy – Physically and mentally – and minimize the spread of the virus.

As per Doctors’ opinion, there are two main reasons it’s crucial for families to stay home as much as possible now, “First, though coronavirus will inevitably spread, we want to slow it down, so hospitals aren’t inundated at once,”

“Second, we want to protect the elderly and other vulnerable populations with underlying health conditions from getting the virus because they are more likely to develop severe illness.” So please stay safe for yourself and your near and dear ones. Here we would like to share few tips during stay at home.

  • Avoid Social Media as much as possible. Abandon of information flooded us with negativity and created a panic situation. Use limited-time in social media (20 minutes a day). 
  • Make yourself available to listen and to talk with your children. 
  • Avoid language that blames others and leads to stigma. 
  • Teach children everyday action (with fun and games) to reduce the spread of germs.
  • Download 15 minutes Aerobic Exercise and exercise 15 minutes a day with all family members.
  • Manage stress and anxiety – Prayer, Meditation, and Practice Pro-activeness help to reduce stress and anxiety in our life. 
  • Flexible your normal rules and routines. This is not the time to draw a line in the sand if your children spend about an extra 20 minutes of the screen so you can finish that conference call or get that email out to your team.
  • Make an action list what will you do, if you or any of your family members getting sick with COVID 19.

COVID-19 – A Sustainable View

There was a critical need for the industry to change the way we make things; and to shift towards a more sustainable industrial system with significantly less consumerism, excessive growth and industrial and solid waste pollution.

The COVID-19 Pandemic has resulted in just that. It has brought to a shuddering halt rampant industrial growth, made us re-think our priorities in a consumerist society; and taken out the major polluters of carbon and other greenhouse gas emissions, i.e., the airlines, automobiles, and cruise ships. This has enabled Planet Earth to take a deep breath. Unfortunately, millions will die so that our planet can continue to be liveable for those of us who survive.

We must learn a lesson from this so that millions more will not perish when climate change makes the Earth unsustainable for future generations.

Changing the way we work will be one small step for mankind.

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