Coronavirus was declared a global pandemic in March 2020 and since then the UK government has imposed numerous lockdowns and various restrictions. Aside from the financial implications, one of the biggest hurdles for businesses around the UK has been switching to working from home wherever possible to stop the spread of COVID-19.
In this article we will touch on practical tips for keeping in touch with your team, cloud-based accounting products and how to become “paperless”.
Practical tips for keeping in touch with your team
Working from home can be isolating, so ensure that you and your team have regular check-ins. Find an online tool that works for your team, for example Microsoft Teams.
Microsoft Teams (or other tools like Zoom or Slack) are a great way of interacting and collaborating with work colleagues, alongside the use of video calls. Meetings can also be scheduled in advance to discuss upcoming work, deadlines or general wellbeing.
Microsoft Teams also enables the creation of teams, channels and group chats, which can be used to communicate with multiple employees at the same time, whether that be for internal teams or for colleagues who are working on the same projects.
Most tools allow recording of virtual meetings, which will then be saved, allowing everyone from the team to access the contents securely: this also means no one person must be a scribe for the meeting. Similarly, if you would rather keep notes you can use the meeting notes function which allows notes to be seen by all parties of the call instantly. This is more efficient than face to face meetings whereby notes would likely have to be typed up and then circulated.
Another benefit of using virtual platforms such as Microsoft Teams is the ability to share documents rather than sending them via email. Documents can be stored and edited and this is particularly useful where many employees may need to add to or edit a document. This saves long backward and forward email chains and creates a central point for documents to be viewed.
Cloud accounting tools & apps
One of the many benefits of cloud based accounting products, such as Xero and Quickbooks, is the ability to access the accounting records from anywhere in the world, at any time – all that is needed is an internet connection. As a result, businesses with cloud based accounting systems will have found the switch to working from home a lot easier than others.
Now that we are working from home, storage is a key factor. Xero can store sales and purchase invoices in the system as well as allowing you to attach them to the relevant transactions – this makes invoices easy to find when needed. There is also a files section in Xero whereby other information, such as loan agreements or lease information, can be stored. Gone are the days of multiple lever arch files containing 7 years’ worth of paper records! For those of us working from home, the last thing we want is paper records taking up our personal space. A tip for getting the paper records onto Xero whilst working from home (presumably without a photocopier) is to use scanning apps such as Dext or MS Lens. This allows users of smartphones to take photos of invoices or documents on their phones, which will convert them into PDF and can, in some cases, upload the documents straight to the accounting systems. Paper records can then be shredded! The time and space saving can be significant and ongoing costs are minimal.
A further benefit of cloud based accounting products such as Xero is the ever growing selection of add-ons which can integrate with Xero. One that is particularly useful now that many of us are working from home is Approval Max. This allows individuals to approve invoices for payment, or approve orders, either online or via email. This avoids having to send paper documents backwards and forwards for signature.
Other implications of working from home
As the number of people working from home has increased, many of us are considering whether this is a permanent change in working life. It is, therefore, worthwhile considering the tax implications.
Tax relief is available for employees if home working is required by the employer. Relief is limited to expenses you incur because you must work from home, such as a proportion of electricity costs and so son. If your employer has agreed to meet expenses related to your home working, they may pay you up to £6 per week tax-free. If your employer isn’t contributing anything for home working expenses, you can make a claim to HMRC for tax relief on those expenses, either using the fixed rate of £6 per week or the actual expenses.
Either way, the savings in commuting costs make working from home an attractive option for most and provide the employer with an opportunity to save property costs by downsizing or sub-letting the newly created space in their offices.
If you need help in considering or implementing any solutions for home working or in digitising accounting processes, our team have vast experience in helping clients…feel free to get in touch!