From clients to cheese – how home offices have changed how we work

Published on October 9, 2020 by Helen Rutter

This has been a very strange six months for all of us. Here’s Helen Rutter, our Advisory and Audit Manager, to share some of her recent ‘homeworking’ experiences.

The last few months have been something none of us could have anticipated.

Who would have thought we would have all been converting corners of the house into home offices and learning how to turn on the audio and video for the new world of Zoom calls?!

After a brief return to the office, it now looks as though we will be using our home offices once more.

My working from home experience started slightly earlier than most people.

I had scheduled to work for a week at a client’s premises when one of their staff was suspected of having coronavirus. As it happens, they didn’t, but everyone was sent home as a precaution.

So, instead of working across the table with a client on their annual budgets, I was trying to do this from home with the complexities of trying to get in touch with the right people who had themselves very suddenly started working from home. This was the precursor to adapting to dealing with all clients from a distance.

I found that, as a firm, we all adapted very quickly to working from home, and the same with clients.  Of course, technology has helped us all immensely. All of RPG’s systems are already held in the cloud so adapting to my usual work remotely has meant ‘business as usual’. Many of our clients use online accounting software which means that they could continue to access it from wherever they were working and we, too, had full access to it.

While it has been odd not to be able to arrange face-to-face meetings with clients, we have all quickly become accustomed to using Zoom, and I actually think that it has given us the opportunity to build closer relationships with clients. Children and pets joining the meeting, as well as discussions about bookshelves, have been great icebreakers!

I would never previously have imagined that conducting an audit from home would be possible. The audit team is used to working at a client’s premises where we have immediate access to all of the documentation that we need.

In these new circumstances, we had to identify exactly what we needed, contact the client, request the information, and wait for it to be accessed and sent to us. Mostly it was available for the client online but sometimes we had to wait for someone to go into the office to pick up a hard copy document. It meant that we had to change some of our deadlines, but we have found clients to be entirely supportive.

Social interaction with colleagues was one of the biggest initial misses of lockdown. A few of us would often have had a walk into Manchester city centre at lunchtime or met up at the pub after work – suddenly all of that was gone.

However, once again, we embraced technology!

The directors made sure that we had weekly departmental meetings to check workload, the current position on jobs, and to check in on everyone’s wellbeing. We all had the opportunity of collecting any equipment we needed from the office so, for example, I borrowed an office chair to make sure I could work comfortably.

Regular CPD training has still gone ahead, again via Zoom, and I think that it has been even more interactive than sitting in a meeting room as we have all participated more via the chat area.

Jonathan sent a weekly message to everyone and set up the weekly catch-up Zoom call so we can all hear any updates. It’s also a chance to have some informal chats – the ‘water cooler’ conversations – which might be about the football, or the latest people on Masterchef or Bake Off, but it’s fun and we can all see each other!

I suggested a weekly quiz, so this follows the Friday lunchtime call and we take it in turns to set the questions – this has been great fun! We have had a few people join the firm during lockdown, so it has given them the opportunity to ‘meet’ us all. Seeing colleagues in their home setting, wearing casual clothes and with cats, dogs and family is worthy of an article of its own!

We would normally have a firm-wide social event every quarter. The last one had to be cancelled, so I looked into online alternatives and we held a cheese and wine tasting via Zoom instead.

It was great fun as we each had a supply of cheese and wine delivered to our homes which we sampled while the wine specialist host explained the various wines to us. I suspect that a few people topped up the official samples with their own wine supplies, but it was great fun, especially with the chat room facility!

Since early September more of us have been coming into the office, at least for a couple of days a week. I’ve even been out to one or two clients’ premises to carry out their audits. It has been great to see everyone again, albeit socially distanced.

Now we are starting another period with more working from home, although we are expecting to have up to two days in the office each week, which will help us all to work as effectively as possible.

Looking at a further extended period of working from home, we will continue to embrace the technology and make sure that we maintain strong links with our clients, and I will make sure that I am on the weekly ‘social hour’ Zoom calls with my colleagues. It’s really important that we continue to share stories and have some fun together.

Written by Helen Rutter, Advisory and Audit Manager, RPG Social Secretary

We have received an excellent service from the team at RPG for well over 20 years. We particularly appreciate RPG's real interest in our company and suggestions for improvements. The service RPG provides goes well beyond what we could expect.  The attention to detail and the prompt, professional service the team provides means that we are reassured that should we require urgent or unusual advice, the team will provide it. We would have no hesitation in recommending RPG.

Margaret Peasegood

Executive Chairman - SheffProp

I would like to thank RPG for your unbelievable help, assistance and friendship for over 40 years. Nothing has ever been too much trouble. Words alone are insufficient, and I think that the same would apply to my former colleagues and my family who have also come to rely on your advice and guidance.

Neville Johnson

Founder - Neville Johnson Offices

We have worked with RPG for many years, for good reason. They are not only extremely knowledge but they really take the time to get to know you as customers and also as people. This really makes a difference, as whilst it is of course important that you receive great service, which we do, it’s also essential to work with professionals who you can really trust and who go out of their way to know your business as well as you do, giving ultimate comfort that you are all striving towards the same goals. I cannot recommend them highly enough.

Jennie Johnson MBE

Kids Allowed

“RPG have always been our first point of call for advice on accounting, tax and financial regulatory matters and indeed have become an additional sounding board for both myself and my colleagues on strategic matters. The consistently high quality and timely advice they provide is very important to us.”

Gareth Rowe

Chief Financial Officer - ProofID

“As a family business we have been using Royce Peeling Green as our accountants for over 25 years. We have always been impressed with their expertise and depth of knowledge in all financial areas required to help run our business. There is an obvious understanding and trust between the two companies which leads to proactive approach to guide us with short and long-term financial planning. We have found everyone at Royce Peeling Green to be very approachable providing us with the reassurance that they will always provide a professional response in a timely manner.”

David Harrabin

Managing Director - Manchester Slate Ltd

RPG have now acted for our various companies for over 15 years. Their advice and commercial attitude in dealing with Tax, Audit and general businesses matters has always been of high quality and queries dealt with promptly. The team at RPG are experts in their field, they understand the SME market place well. They have been involved in all our corporate transactions, from setting up of businesses, ongoing support of our management teams through to being part of the team that negotiated the successful sale of a group company.

Jonathan Hamburger

Genesis Group International

We have received a first rate service from RPG over many years. We appreciate their attention to detail and the timely, professional and pro-active advice they provide. We would have no hesitation in recommending the team at RPG.

Stephen Rector

Managing Director – Ribble Packaging Limited