How We Coped With COVID – Q & A
1. How will COVID-19 impact your business in the next six months?
The most significant impact of COVID-19 on our business was the necessity to keep up-to-date with the government’s new program implementations. Keeping up-to-date was especially challenging as the requirements and restrictions, as well as timeframes would routinely change. As one example, initially, the government stated that the CEBA could not be used to pay dividends, but CRA removed this prohibition within a week, and consequently, we had to change the advice we gave to our clients.
CERB, CESB, CEWS, CEBA, CECRA, LEEFF, CSLP, RRRF, IRAP, and more were not acronyms that we used just a few months ago. Additional benefits for CCB, GST, OAS, GIS, and more were implemented, while payment dates and deadlines were shifted.
We expect program changes to be ongoing for the next six months. To continue giving our clients exemplary service, we will continue working to stay on top of the government’s relief measures.
2. How has COVID-19 disrupted your business operations presently?
An important part of our service has included face-to-face client meetings whenever requested. While our pivot to a cloud-based firm was almost seamless, we were not able to meet with clients in person. We have recommenced these meetings for clients who request them.
3. Are there any changes to your communication patterns? If yes, what are these changes?
Our firm was moving towards a digital, paperless office in the months before the pandemic. This shift in the months leading up to the lockdowns proved to be an important one, as it allowed a much smoother transition to working from home, which was heavily recommended by experts. Changes in our communication patterns had already taken place by the time of the pandemic.
4. Are you working remotely or from your office space?
Until mid-March, we continued to work at our temporary Richmond Street location. About a week before the experts recommending working from home, we decided to transition to working remotely. Accountants’ offices were deemed essential services, so closing our office was not mandated, however, we knew we could continue providing exemplary service without putting our clients, ourselves, and the general public at risk. We continued working from home until mid-July, a couple of weeks after Toronto entered into Stage 2. On July 1, we moved to our permanent location at Bathurst and College. This building had implemented a robust COVID policy, making it safe to return to the offices. We currently are working a mix of in-office and out-of-office, but have at least one team member at our Bathurst Street location daily.
5. Please explain the challenges associated with working remotely or from your office space.
Change presents challenges, and the transition from going into the office to working from home was no exception. Utilizing cloud technology and other computer software allowed us to continue to work together while working apart.
To obtain the necessary paperwork for personal tax clients, we offered different delivery methods for the documentation. We encouraged online delivery, which provided the greatest social distancing, but also made use of the post office and courier services.
Another challenge of working away from the office was the sense of isolation. Our office has a collegial atmosphere, and it was missed.
6. If you are working from an office, are there any restrictions on how many people can enter your office space?
Our office location has restrictions on visitors. All meetings must be pre-booked (no drop-ins) and must observe the office COVID policies. Some of the requirements include:
- If you are feeling unwell or have been exposed to COVID-19, you should remain at home
- Non-medical masks are required on the premises
- Social distancing is required on the premises
- Meeting rooms have a reduced capacity (posted) that must be followed
- All health guidelines announced by the Ministry of Health at the time of your visit must be followed
7. What precautions are you taking to disinfect your workspace and staff?
Access to the new office location is restricted to help maintain social distancing. On any given day, the building occupancy is at approximately 50% of the capacity of pre-pandemic levels. Sanitization protocols are in place, while masks and social distancing measures are compulsory.
8. Is there any change to your working hours?
We have not changed our regular working hours, but have found ourselves working a few extra hours to make sure to stay on top of things. We continue to be available to serve your needs during our usual hours of 8:00 am to 4:30 pm, Monday through Friday.
9. Are you open to having in-person meetings with your clients or willing to travel to meet clients? What are the parameters to be observed by you and the client?
As a general practice, we encourage social distancing; however, we understand that sometimes these meetings are needed. We are open to arranging in-person meetings and request that our guests take the proper precautions. We continue to follow the health experts’ guidance of wearing masks, washing and sanitizing hands frequently, and maintaining social distance.
10. Are you open to having meetings via video conferencing? Is there any particular application that you prefer (Skype, RingCentral, Zoom, Hangouts, WhatsApp, etc.)
We are encouraging phone and video meetings in place of the traditional in-person meeting, which supports the social distancing measures. While phone meetings are sufficient for our needs most of the time, we can host video meetings when required.
11. Are there any other details that you would like to share about your experience during the lockdown or COVID-19-related information in regard to work, clients, or your personal life?
We will continue to follow the health experts’ guidance when it comes to COVID-19. We would like to provide the following links for additional guidance:
- Canada: www.canada.ca
- Ontario: covid-19.ontario.ca
- Toronto: www.toronto.ca
- CRA Updates: www.canada.ca
If you are looking for expert advice when it comes to bookkeeping, taxes and business advice, get in touch with us at Colin Phillips, CPA Professional Corporation. We have clients across the Greater Toronto Area, and as we work remotely are open to expanding to customers who are distant as well. We service clients across Toronto, Barrie, Oshawa, Ajax, Vaughan, Markham, Guelph, Milton, Oakville, Brampton, Mississauga, Burlington, Hamilton, and the surrounding areas.