Let me start off my stating the obvious that these are uncertain times. Things are moving a little too quickly and no one was prepared for this. Stories coming through the news/media outlets can be quite disheartening and grim. Having spent about 3 to 4 weeks working remotely and observing everything that is going on within the firm I have some reassurance that despite everything everyone is in this together. To put it simply we are all ‘in the same boat’. While its true that no one knows any better about how to deal with it I can see that everyone is more than willing to support each other through it.
Since it has not been that long I very clearly remember receiving the central communication from the CEO on Monday the 16th of March, 2020. Since I work in audit and quite specifically the public sector team the bulk of our work is done face-to-face with our local audit teams and the client. Being based in the South-West I spend most of my year either commuting or travelling and meeting people and working side-by-side is an essential element of the job. Within days it meant the wider team needed to now figure out ‘how to audit remotely’. As challenging as this sounds the wider public sector audit team responded almost immediately by opening up all avenues to keep central communications on-going by organising central meetings through Teams.
Every week all members of the national PSA team dial in to ‘Top Tuesday’ to share the best practices across offices and discuss any audit implications arising from Covid-19. The local team in the South West also catches up every week to keep in touch and updated on any operational issues. What is great about working in my team is that when faced with a challenge of this nature not only did we have all the means to continue working remotely but also we also collectively made sure that we shared all the best practices across the country. This was not just to cope with the changes but more specifically to deliver the quality of work we would have otherwise delivered if things continued as usual.
Some of the other things I really appreciate is as soon as we started working remotely the well-being team at my office set up daily catch-up calls. As we started to come to terms with our new ways of working we were now dialing in to have a coffee or tea together which is something we would have usually done at the office except we would no longer bump into people in the kitchen but just see them online. Instead of heading off to the closest Wetherspoons on a Friday evening, my team now catches up online for ‘virtual drinks’ at the end of the week. This is possibly one of the most bizarre yet efficient way to do a pub quiz and just generally catch up. Although each of us are at home away from the rest we are still virtually connected doing what we would probably do after work while maintain the ‘social distance’.
Being of one of the most client facing service lines in the firm it also meant maintaining regular communication with the client team by organising weekly catch up calls to discuss deadlines and challenges of remote working. This is a great way to make use of all the IT tools available to us and familiarising them as well on how to use it. Over the last few weeks I have realized that like ourselves, our clients are also coping with this challenge of working remotely. This makes it even more important to work flexibly while we continue to strive for the right quality in our work while making use of all the IT and technology we have. Working efficiently from our end makes things a little more manageable for them as well.
In the last two weeks I have had multiple colleagues in my team reach out to check up on how I am doing. I was touched to find that people are aware of your circumstances and genuinely want to be there for you. In my case, since I live alone they were fully aware that it might be a bit more isolating for some than others. It does brighten up my day when I know that although each of my colleagues are quite busy we still care about each other’s wellbeing. This has been key to Grant Thornton’s culture for as long as I have been around.
While I can’t wait for things to get back to normal where I can go back to seeing my team and clients regularly I am making full use of this time to stick to a schedule. As much as I love travelling to work with different clients and where no two days or weeks might be the same, staying at home does allow you to have more of a schedule. Now that ventures outdoors is limited I make full use of this time to get some. My goal for the next few weeks is to accept things as they are ( which is often easier said than done) and make the most of my time outside of work to exercise, cook, sketch or even catch up with friends and family (online of course!).
From what I have observed in the last few weeks I can say that while the firm continues to tackle this challenge we definitely are still doing everything keeping in mind the predominant goals – delivering quality in our work while ensuring that the we do not compromise on the well-being of our people. I am going to conclude by saying despite everything going on around us we have definitely maintained an optimistic and agile attitude which makes coping with the current situation slightly easier.