By Della Duncan, Nicoleta Onisoru & Carol Kens
As 2021 starts, another national lockdown begins. Like many of you, our team is experiencing the challenge of home-schooling children alongside work. Yet while encouraging teenagers and marshalling little ones is something we’re having to adapt into the working day, for us as a finance team our working practices have changed very little otherwise in the past year. In fact, when the Covid-19 pandemic struck it was business as usual for the Finance Team here at HCUK Group. That’s because HCUK Group has always been a home working company. So having already established strong operational resources and procedures that were practical and efficient for a homeworking company, our day to day was much the same. We are environmentally friendly, operating a near paperless system and have a long established way of communicating online and by phone with our clients. We thought we would share our experience with you.
Meet The Finance “Incredibles” Team
The Finance Team (nicknamed “The Incredibles”)
L-R; Carol, Nicoleta and Della
Della - I joined HCUK Group (or Heritage Collective UK Ltd as it used to be) 6 years ago at the beginning of January 2015. Prior to this I had spent over 30 years in corporate finance, banking, advertising, private and commercial health club management, airline catering, luxury hotel procurement, conveyancing and residential care. Which were all office based environments. Albeit in health club management and airline catering I worked in a Porta Cabin. Working from home, though sometimes challenging, does not compare to working at a company premises. It is so much better. Organisation, self-discipline, timing, and communication are some of the key skills needed to be successful working from home. Working from home has enabled me to have a better quality of life and be accessible to my family whilst remaining professional and productive at work. I believe HCUK Group is a great innovative company. It is caring, supportive, dynamic, adaptable, and resourceful and has a great pro-active team spirit.
Nicoleta - I joined the company in 2016. I have enjoyed working from home for 4 years and 8 months now. Working in finance requires a degree of flexibility. You can work in any type of business, remotely or in an office. I am part of a great team, we support each other even though we do not see each other every day in the office. Working from home helps me achieve a better work/ life balance. I am present and available for my family, save time commuting, and am able to organize my work environment as I find it best. This makes the world of difference to me.
Carol - I have worked for HCUK Group since March 2018. There are pros and cons working from home. The main advantage for me is that I do not need to commute. I go downstairs and I am ready to start work. I think it is very important to stick with normal routines that you would obviously do if travelling to an office to work - i.e. have a shower and get dressed. Other advantages are that there are no work distractions like loud conversations and there are no air conditioning disputes and arguments over which radio station to listen to. Also, thankfully, I am not away from home during the day when there are numerous deliveries, workmen, school runs, appointments to go to near home. I do not need to take a whole day off to attend and these can be done in my lunch break. There are a few disadvantages, however. Isolation and feeling as if you are always in the house. You can sometimes get cabin fever. And there is no office banter for company. I try to get out for a walk daily and say hello to everyone in my community. I have the radio on in the background too. Keeping in contact with work colleagues with weekly scheduled calls, Teams and Zoom videoconferencing is very helpful. Though my conclusion to home working is that it is an ideal way to work.
Working in finance (and business in general), good working relationships, timing and communication are key in keeping the wheels of financial administration/business moving. While we were used to home-working, as time passed during 2020 it became evident that our suppliers and clients were also adapting and moving to working from home. Through our usual communication we discovered that some clients and suppliers were at first struggling but have mainly adapted to the change very well. Working from home is not new for us therefore we empathised with them and were able to provide support and guidance when required.
The pandemic has forced everyone to communicate wholly through tools such as Teams and Zoom, which has revolutionised the way that we communicate, saving time and money. Even though HCUK Group was already home-based, we used to meet on occasion and do miss face to face team meetings but the increase in WhatsApp group chat has added to our communication tools.
The main downturn has been that during the past year the wheels have slowed down. As most of the country has been working from home challenges have affected the tempo in general. Here’s what’s impacted us:
Making calls to businesses with limited staff has occasionally been difficult. Some of our clients and suppliers who weren’t in the office did not have work mobiles or alternative landline numbers. Or when on home phones, background interference and in some instances poor phone reception has impeded phone calls. This has led to delays in resolution of issues.
Reverting to email when phones aren’t an option has meant a slower response due to more email traffic. And an increase in junk email has been evident. So, a more frequent monitor and check of junk email has been necessary. Extra vigilance for financial fraud has been necessary.
Children of various ages have been off school, so the onus has been on us parents to educate, entertain and council (in some instances) our children through this extremely difficult year. This has been an added distraction whilst working through our day and one we are set to continue with through this lockdown.
Regardless of these setbacks during this unusual period we have prevailed, as have our clients and suppliers. With resilience, patience and determination have built on the strong procedures we already had and adapted our skills and resources to the pandemic situation. Which has enabled us to remain productive and professional, soldiering on with positivity.
The HCUK Group Finance Team are looking forward to 2021 with positivity and to working with you throughout the year.