Hey! What’s New?

A random collection of news items I hope you will find interesting.

by Gundi Jeffrey, Managing Editor

How One Accounting Firm Successfully Went Remote

It’s been said that, by the year 2030, the large tech companies will have at least half of their employees working from home, and home could be anywhere in the world! In an article posted on accountingWEB January 6, 2021, Chris Millias, Managing Partner of San Francisco-based OUM & Co-CPA-Accounting & Business Advisory Services, says “that sounds crazy from a pre-pandemic perspective, but 2020 has taught us that things can change in a heartbeat. I believe that our organizational business model has changed for the good, and progressive companies will allow their employees to work wherever they feel most creative and productive, even once offices begin to reopen. The future of work is going to be less about absolutes, and more about flexibility and agility.”

Although his firm has been on a progressive journey over the years preparing for the inevitable shifts in how it operates and serves clients, “2020 initiated a quantum leap.” All of a sudden, 100 plus employees were working from home. “We then concentrated on accelerating and enhancing our employees’ software tools related to client service, collaboration, communication, organization, added technical and softs skills education, etc.”

Here are a few other things that Millias is focusing on for 2021:
• 2021 Culture/Core Value Refresh. Our goal is to refresh our existing core values and figure out new ways of developing rituals and methods to help us live these positive values on an ongoing basis. We have asked our younger leaders to take this project on from the ground up so that it becomes more than just a static list of phrases.
• Periodic Town Hall Meetings – Communicate, Communicate, Communicate. These video meetings give us the chance to bring everyone together to communicate what is happening with the firm from the top down and to bring in our emerging leaders to present a myriad of specific topics.
• Market Internally. Raw information is everywhere; the key is to synthesis it, organize it and visualize it in a simple yet powerful way to transfer knowledge with an impact. This will encompass many subject areas, including our best practices and tools for business development, career planning, culture and values, technical excellence, community efforts, employee profiles and as much fun stuff as we can. The goal is to drive traffic to our OUM intranet to access all of this information, resources and tools.
• Security Risks. The remote work environment introduces even more security risks, including unsecure networks and passwords, controlling personal vs. business use of firm resources, and phishing attacks, to name a few. As a result, we are boosting security awareness with mandatory training and using random internal test emails to keep our people on their toes! We are also continuing to improve our cloud software solutions for file and client management.

“As with any change journey,” says Millias, “we have encountered challenges that have served as lessons learned to enhance our best practices and expand our remote work benefits.”

For more on Millias’s plans, check out How One Accounting Firm Successfully Went Remote (accountingweb.com).

Why “Lazy Management” Can Be a Great Workplace Solution

In a January 6 post on the FastCompany webpage, Matt Casey writes about his experience as the managing director of Moonfruit, a U.K.-based website-building service provider. Casey looked at his responsibilities and determined that one easier way to handle some of his tasks would be to put the onus on the employees to carry them out. He calls his approach “lazy management.”

For example, one of the responsibilities Casey took off his plate was evaluating performance and assigning bonuses. Previously, he was tasked with rating employees between one and five and distributing money accordingly. Taking his new lazy approach, Casey assigned everyone a three by default. He told the team, “I’m only going to talk to you if I think you deserve less than that, and I will tell you why. If you think you deserve more, come tell me.”

“Everyone got their score exactly right,” he says. “If they felt they were worth more, they came to me with the number I would have given. The people who were given threes might have griped and been unhappy before making this change. But the onus was on them. They knew they didn’t have a case, and so they didn’t make it.”

Casey also told his team that it was their job to tell him when they wanted a pay raise. By putting employees in charge, Casey removed the invisible barrier that used to exist around asking for more money and eliminated the risk that they silently felt overlooked.

Another management task that took time on Casey’s calendar was approving vacation days, which he admits he’d been handling inconsistently. Employees would put in time-off requests, but he would sometimes forget to review the request. Casey put the responsibility back on the employee, which solved the problem. “I told them, ‘You handle it,'” he says. “‘For me to be counting days became stupid. I’ve hired you to do the job. Make sure not being at work doesn’t have an impact on everyone else. As long as you get your job done, I don’t care how many days you take off.”

Over three years Casey says he removed a good portion of the management structure, rebuilt the business and turned a profit each year. The biggest surprise of taking a lazy manager approach is how few things went wrong, he says. Lazy management also created a social contract, he adds. “Everyone liked having the freedom. No one wanted to be the employee who jeopardized it. It created a level of trust among the employees.”

For a more complete discussion of this novel approach, see Author Matt Casey on his 'lazy management' approach (fastcompany.com).

The Future of Digital Identity

In a recently released report, The Future of Digital Identity, Deloitte explains that, “if an organization gets their digital identity right it leads to more efficiency, revenue and transformational benefits with an enhanced user experience for colleagues, and a differentiating digital journey for customers or citizens. Data-driven organizations outperform their competitors, being 23 times more likely to gain new clients. Digital identity is also foundational for inclusive growth.”

But, according to the report, there is a big obstacle to overcome. “Too many organizations are failing to put digital identity at the center of their business model and operations and, by this omission, are likely to miss out on the full benefits of responsible digitalization.”

Different sources of digital identity create unique personas. An organizational identity is, for example, that of a business or government, or one of its employees. A personal identity is that of a customer of a business, or a citizen of a country. An application or device identity is that of a mobile phone, computer or piece of industrial equipment.

The report lays out how a person’s digital identity, and his or her interactivity with the world, will be multi-faceted and unique to each experience. “For example, when an online banking service requires a password and other information from a customer and receives the correct information, the bank knows it is dealing with that customer and no-one else. The customer, meanwhile, knows it can trust that the bank’s digital identity checks will prevent identity theft and the possible consequences associated with that.”

All well and good. However, the customer’s digital identity may be unique to only that part of the bank, such as retail accounts, and may not work with other parts, such as the credit card or mortgage divisions. Even if the customer has a single identity covering the entire bank, it will probably only work with that bank. When communicating online with other banks, and indeed any other organization, the customer will need a separate identity. In addition, each organization will carry out additional verifications of the customer’s identity to manage access, protect personal data and reduce the risk of fraud. “These extra checks are inefficient, influencing the customer experience negatively, and the lack of process alignment could lead to damaging audit findings.”

What these inefficiencies illustrate is that, says the report, “despite recent developments, the world of digital identities is far from perfect. Further work is needed to streamline the processes involved and reduce the number of identities each organization, person or device needs. As part of that streamlining it needs to be considered that personal data belongs to the person, and that person will increasingly control their ownership, supported by regulation. As such, data governance and privacy need to be part of an organization’s digital identity strategy.”

For much more on how to reap the full benefits of responsible digitalization, please see The Future of Digital Identity | Deloitte Global.

 

Hey! What’s New? Holiday edition

Financial Fraud Risks to Watch for Amid the Pandemic

An article by Joseph Radigan, posted on the Journal of Accountancy webpage December 23, 2020, claims that “there are early indications that the pandemic’s severe financial pressure may tempt some employees to be overly aggressive in meeting budget cuts or sales quotas.

The article reports on a session held during a recent AICPA Conference on Current SEC and PCAOB Developments. Panelist Kristin Rivera, CPA/CFF, the global forensics leader for PwC LLP, noted that executives, directors and auditors need to be alert to how midlevel employees perceive the pandemic’s unique pressures. She advised management to be cautious when announcing directives to motivate employees to take the steps needed to ride out the crisis. “We may need to be extra cautious of how our words are being interpreted and implemented,” Rivera said. “People feel an obligation to help the company pull through. They might be putting more pressure on themselves to meet those expectations.”

Nathan Seltzer, a partner in the London office of the law firm Latham & Watkins LLP, reviewed SEC Accounting and Auditing Enforcement Releases from 2014 through June 2019. The survey found that regulators were often concerned with more than the standard tone-at-the-top problems that are often evident in fraud cases. They also wanted to understand how fraud percolated throughout the financial reporting process and involved midlevel managers and staff. “There’s often someone in the middle, or lower, who was told to do something, or who may have seen something, but didn’t speak up and had the opportunity to do that,” Seltzer said. As a result, there’s a growing interest among some companies to empower midlevel staff to speak out when they witness fraudulent behavior.

Rivera said tone-at-the-top problems are fixable, and a failure to address them will almost certainly lead to problems. “The least expensive, and easiest thing, you can do is really pay attention to your culture,” Rivera said. “That hard-driving CEO that expects nothing less than meeting the expectations. Even when that’s not the intent, that can be misinterpreted.”

Susan Markel, CPA/CFF, an AlixPartners managing director and a former chief accountant with the SEC’s Division of Enforcement, said auditors and other gatekeepers need to be mindful of the pandemic’s changes to work habits. People have gone for months without venturing into their place of work. Meetings that used to be held face-to-face are now held via Zoom.

“People may not have that ability to walk down the hallway if they have a question,” Markel said. “They might be making decisions that they otherwise would not have.” Auditors need to be alert to the heightened risk caused by lapses in regular communication among managers and staff. Executives can lessen the risk by making more of an effort to communicate with their staffs.

Auditors and other corporate gatekeepers may need to pay attention to how remote work has become so commonplace during the pandemic and determine whether that is adding to the risk of financial fraud, Rivera said. People are distracted because they’re fulfilling professional commitments at the same time they’re juggling personal responsibilities like parenting. “The unique challenges of working remotely during 2020 may be opening people up to rationalizing some behaviors they should avoid.”

“It’s important to be thoughtful about where resources are allocated but also document decisions,” Seltzer said. Prosecutors who are tasked with investigating suspicious financial activity from 2020 in three, four, or five years may not fully grasp the challenges businesses have faced due to the pandemic. “Companies can protect themselves by establishing clear policies for documenting all decisions that affect financial reporting and then make sure they support their decisions with the documentation.”

For more solid advice, go to Financial fraud risks to watch for amid the pandemic - Journal of Accountancy.

Millennials Hit Hardest During the Pandemic

Of all of the generations, Millennials have been hit the hardest during the coronavirus pandemic, with nearly half (48%) saying they have had to dip into their retirement savings, according to a survey by Allianz Life Insurance Co. of North America, the “Q4 Quarterly Market Perceptions Study.” This compares with 32% of Generation Xers and 22% of Baby Boomers. Further, half of Millennials have either stopped or reduced their retirement savings—compared with 41% of Gen Xers and 36% of Boomers.

Among all age groups, 34% have dipped into their retirement savings due to the economic impacts of COVID-19.

Of all investors, 72% believe the markets will continue to be very volatile in 2021. Thirty-three percent say they do not feel financially prepared to ride out the economic impacts of COVID-19. And 44% feel the market hasn’t bottomed out yet. As a result, only 25% of the people surveyed say they are ready to invest, down from 29% the previous quarter.

“We’ve watched as the pandemic continues to wreak havoc on peoples’ financial and retirement strategies, whether that is from unexpected job loss or early withdrawal of retirement assets,” says Aimee Johnson, vice president of advanced markets and solutions at Allianz Life. “It’s clear that people remain nervous about market risks and how their finances will continue to be impacted, not only in 2021 but for many years ahead.”

Fifty-three percent of those surveyed say the COVID-19 pandemic is having a negative impact on their retirement savings. Nonetheless, 66% think the economy will improve in 2021, and 67% think their personal financial situation will ultimately improve.

Sixty-seven percent say the impact of the pandemic on the economy has prompted them to rethink how to protect their retirement savings, and 56% say they will adjust their retirement strategy if the volatility continues in the next year.

“We shouldn’t forget some of the things we can take away from this unprecedented year, including how to prepare for and manage risks within a retirement strategy,” Johnson adds. “Taking steps to help mitigate these risks now can make a big difference in both the long-term and short-term as we wait to see what 2021 has in store for us.”

For a bit more, go to Majority of Americans Expect Market Volatility to Remain High in 2021 | Allianz Life.

How to Look Good on Video Calls

Covid 19 dictates that many of us are working from home and swapping in-person meetings for video chats on Zoom, Skype, Google Meet or other options. According to an article by Chandra Steele, posted December 28, 2020, on PC magazine’s webpage, here's how to make sure you look your best while on camera.

Whether you’re in Zoom meetings with colleagues or having virtual cocktail parties with friends, says Steele, “follow these steps so you can spend more time focusing on others and not anxiously checking how you look in the corner of the screen.”

Let there be good light: Finding good light is essential. Shadows falling on your face will highlight signs that you haven’t slept and darkness will obscure your best features. Either face a sunlit window or position a light directly behind your laptop, phone, or tablet.

Get a little height: Whether you’re using a computer or a mobile device, you want its camera to be at eye level. If you don’t already have one, now might be the time to get an adjustable-height stand that accommodates laptops, phones and tablets. Or if you’re mostly using your phone for calls and conferences, get a tripod that can be affixed to a variety of surfaces.
In the background: On a video call you want the focus to be on you, so choose a spot without a cluttered background. Turn on your camera before a call to see what’s being captured and make adjustments to ensure your framing is good. When using Zoom, for example, you can change your background completely. You can do the same on Microsoft Teams and Google Meet.
Your personal best. You don’t want to be too self-conscious during your call but, in general, pulling your face a little bit away from your neck will give your jaw a more taut and flattering appearance. And looking up a bit into the camera is a model trick for making your eyes seem bigger. And, even if you’re not a regular makeup wearer, consider a skin tint; it will give you a natural-looking glow.

Filter through. Some video platforms have the benefit of filters. For example, in Zoom you can turn on “Touch Up My Appearance” to get a bit of a soft-focus effect. Once you select the option it will remain on for all calls.

For more tips, check out How to Look Good on Video Calls | PCMag.

Why You Should Still Take Days Off This Holiday Season

A blog posted on the FastCompany webpage December 11, 2020 agrees that it might be tempting to save up your vacation days when you’re stuck at home anyway, but here’s why you still need to take time off this winter season. At the very least, getting away from work can change your perspective. Here’s how: 

According to the author, Art Markman, a professor of Psychology and Marketing at the University of Texas at Austin and Founding Director of the Program in the Human Dimensions of Organizations, “When you go to work every day without fail, it seems obvious what tasks you should be working on. …But it can be hard to figure out whether the accomplishments you strive for are really adding up to something significant that you will look back on with pride. Stepping away from your job for a week and engaging in other activities can break that narrative. Now, you’re talking to other people, reading other things, and remembering what it’s like to be a citizen of the world.”

As you do that, he says, you may also find that you change your mind about the overall importance of aspects of the contribution you are trying to make at work. Perhaps there are jobs that are lower down in your queue that deserve more attention. “After some time away, you may find yourself adjusting the priority of some goals.” 

Also, when you are up close and personal with your to-do list, it can be hard to escape the lengthening list of items added to it. As a result, you may find yourself checking off a lot of boxes without actually making progress on that all-important mission.

Taking time off can help with that too. Research demonstrates that you think about things that are physically distant from you more abstractly than you think about things that are physically close to you. Your vacation gets you physically (and mentally) distant from work. As a result, you are not plagued by thoughts of specific things that need to get done (at least after the first day or so of vacation). That can allow you to refocus on that mission.

When you return to work, you can flip through your to-do list and start figuring out which items are truly important because they are mission critical—and which are not. If you’re lucky enough to control your own schedule, you can just reorder your list. If not, you might need to sit down with a supervisor to talk about how to remove some tasks that seem less crucial in order to free up time for what really matters.

Usually, it’s important to have multiple pursuits in your life. Even if you can’t travel somewhere new, there is joy in reading a good book, pursuing a hobby or taking a walk on a beautiful day. Time away is a good reminder that your life is more than just your work.

For more of Markman’s reasoning, check out Why you should still take vacation time this holiday season (fastcompany.com).

Key Insights for Successful Hiring in the New Normal

An article produced by Robert Half for the December edition of the FEI Canada Finance and Accounting Review explains that the spread of Covid-19 has caused a wave of disruption for companies across Canada. But also a wave of innovation. From remote hiring and onboarding to socially distanced offices, practices that would have seemed on — or even beyond — the fringes just a few months ago are firmly in the mainstream.

Hiring managers planning to bring in new staff may need to revise their playbooks to account for these developments. So, what are the main trends affecting the current job market? And which skills are likely to be in high demand? 

According to Robert Half, the trend toward remote working predates the pandemic, especially in the creative and tech industries. But when physical distancing restrictions were implemented, telecommuting became a business necessity across a much broader spectrum of the economy, shaking up the more traditional “face time” culture of finance, accounting, corporate law firms and many other businesses.

Nearly three-quarters of workers polled in a survey said they want to work from home more often (74%), with 55% citing a better quality of life due to lack of commuting. For their part, employers have learned that home-based workers can be just as productive and innovative as their in-office counterparts. Firms that want to recruit and retain top talent should consider placing flexible work schedules and telecommuting options at the heart of their employment packages.

The move to virtual teams grants employers access to a deeper talent pool from a broader geographic area, even across time zones. According to a survey of more than 600 senior managers in Canada, 44% say their organization has hired full-time or temporary staff remotely since the pandemic began and, of those who hired, 75% conducted remote interviews and onboarding sessions and 55% expanded their search geographically to access a wider candidate pool.  “Thorough onboarding remains essential for integrating new employees. Savvy managers are arranging video sessions for remote hires to meet the team and assigning mentors to provide guidance and support from a distance.”

Firms that were on the path to digital transformation before 2020 had a competitive advantage. And the pandemic unmasked an even more pressing need for a much wider range of companies to automate their services and streamline their processes. This has put technology professionals with expertise in artificial intelligence (AI), cloud computing and cyber security in high demand, along with full-stack developers and DevOps engineers. Digital transformation and data-driven professionals are also sought, particularly as online retailers look to evolve their presence. 

Get more hiring information and advice at E-Newsletters | FEI Canada.

Young CPAs Learn to Adapt to Lead a Changing Profession

A blog posted by AICPA Communications on Dec 11, 2020, Young CPAs learn to adapt to lead a changing profession - AICPA Insights, puts into perspective how the accounting profession has undergone major changes of late. “New technologies are redefining client expectations and therefore how the profession works. Now, with the pandemic, the need to adapt has accelerated.”

The blog talks about the experience the 2020 AICPA Leadership Academy offered 29 young CPAs from firms, businesses and academia across the nation the opportunity to refine and enhance the skills they will need to meet the challenges of those changes. This year, the event was held virtually.

“I now not only have a better understanding of the importance of having a solid grasp on what is going on in my organization and the profession, but also understand how to look at the current state and plan for the future and be ready to adapt,” said 2020 academy graduate Jessica McClain, a CPA with Brand USA in Washington DC.

Attendees discussed key issues and interacted with influential leaders in the profession. Josh Russell, a CPA with Patterson, Prince & Associates PC in Florence, AL, said he was surprised by how much all the attendees had in common. “Whether we came from a large, medium or small firm, industry or organization, we all had many similar successes, struggles, stories, wants and experiences. Sometimes I think we treat public accounting firms like each group is in its own bucket based on size, but we all have things in common.”

One current that flowed through all the discussions was the coronavirus pandemic’s impact on the profession and the greater world. “Covid was really a catalyst for many changes the profession has been discussing for some time,” said John Confrey, a CPA with Mazars USA LLP in New York. “The profession can sometimes be slow to change, but COVID proved we can be adaptive.”

The accounting profession, particularly for younger CPAs, has a reputation for long, rigid office hours. The pandemic forced firms to adopt remote working and flexible schedules as well as rethink processes and efficiencies. Some are optimistic that the pandemic will spur the profession to more quickly and readily adopt new technologies into their practices.  “Organizations that had not implemented remote-working technology and digital, cloud-based systems have struggled in this environment,” said Russell. “Covid has shown that we have to embrace technology or risk dying out.”

As the profession and CPA licensure model develop, technology skills will be in greater demand. Confrey said he looks forward to seeing the potential they offer in the profession. “I see technology as a way to minimize routine tasks, allowing professionals to spend more time using their creative skills to problem-solve for their companies or clients,” he said. “I’m most interested in implementing robotic process automation [RPA] to improve processes.”

How to Take Care of Your Mental Health This Holiday Season 

An article posted December 11, 2020 in the news section of CPA Canada’s webpage, written by Michelle Singerman, points out that fluctuating pandemic protocols have increased stress and depression among Canadians. And those mental-health concerns will continue to rise as we get closer to the holidays. According to a November survey conducted by the Covid 19 Social Impacts Network, 63% of respondents reported their mental health to be in the lower portion of the five-point survey, showing a larger number of people self-reporting mental-health concerns. According to Singerman, here are four things we can do to better the situation.

Establish a support system. Reach out to family, friends or others, such as online support groups. For example, Wellness Together Canada is a Government of Canada initiative aimed providing free support for Canadians around the clock.

Be aware of your mood. This holiday season creates the perfect storm of stressors, with uncertainty being one of the three psychological factors associated with increased stress, anxiety and depression. The second stressor is controllability (the ability to control a situation) and the third is importance (the more important something is, the more preoccupied your mind will be). Our inability to plan due to changing regulations causes additional worry. One solution is heading outside to get as much natural sunlight as possible. Also consider following your usual holiday routines, such as decorating your house, sending holiday cards and hosting Zoom dinners. 

Connect with your work community. It’s important to engage with colleagues and create a sense of connection. While we have to recognize our own health and mental health throughout the holiday season, it’s equally important that we recognize friends, family and colleagues.

Keep up resiliency. The onset of the pandemic brought significant structural changes to our lives, and we are still adapting to fluctuating regulations, but we have also seen how, as human beings, just how resilient we are. The adversity we have navigated through during these past several months has built adaptability, allowing families and friends to remain creative and positive in how the holidays are spent, such as with creative activities or meal preparation shared virtually. 

For more advice to consider, check out How to take care of your mental health this holiday season (cpacanada.ca).

Conditions Ripe for Already Resilient M&A Activity to Accelerate

Following a rollercoaster year for mergers and acquisitions (M&A), the increase in year-over-year (YoY) value of deals recorded since the beginning of Q3 is likely to continue into 2021, as companies position themselves for improved economic activity and reframe their future for the post-COVID-19 pandemic era. This is according to EY research looking at global M&A trends in 2020 and the outlook for transactions in 2021 released today.

According to the EY research, with an overall value of US$2.9t, global M&A in 2020 is tracking below 2019’s value of US$3.3t, but still ranks fifth for value of deals in the post-global financial crisis period. M&A activity has varied across regions, with values in Asia-Pacific slowing dramatically in the first two months of 2020 before finishing the year with an increase of 19% to US$805b. In the Americas, M&A values declined by 29% to US$1,27b, with the US market seeing a fall of 80% at the height of the lockdown compared with 2019. In EMEIA, the decline in deal value is more limited (3%) to US$815b, with the region having regained most of the lost ground from earlier in the year.

The most active sectors were technology, media and entertainment and telecommunications (TMT) with 5,755 deals valued at US$973b (up 6% YoY), financial services with 901 deals valued at US$352b (up 8% YoY), and power and utilities with 525 deals valued at US$142b (up 34% YoY).

Sectors that have been most exposed to the COVID-19 pandemic have seen a more marked slowdown in 2020, as a result of lockdown restrictions and economic slowdown. The industrials sector (down 18% at US$262b compared with 2019) and consumer sector (down 16% at US$156b during the same period) were particularly exposed.

According to Andrea Guerzoni, EY Global Vice Chair – Strategy and Transactions, “An increase in activity in the second half of the year was largely expected, but the rebound in global M&A following the COVID-19 pandemic related stall has been stronger, quicker and more sustained than many could foresee. There has been a boldness in the deals announced post-July with the aim to combine assets to offer a broader and deeper array of products and services to customers being the common thread. As businesses look to build resilience to withstand any future shocks or crises, transactions across all sectors have focused on capturing long sought-after capabilities and building new routes to market, rather than capturing market share.”

For more, and a peek into the future, have a look at Conditions ripe for already resilient M&A activity to accelerate in 2021 and beyond | EY - Global.

That Forehead Temperature Scan Doesn’t Prevent Covid 19

Those mandatory temperature screenings at airports, offices and medical facilities are not actually preventing COVID-19 spread or even detecting it, says a pair of researchers in an Open Forum Infectious Diseases op-ed. Fast Company picked up the story December 16, 2020, noting that, forehead temperature scans have so far identified a comically low number of cases. “The authors from Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and the University of Maryland School of Medicine quote a November CDC report showing that of 766,000 travelers screened with forehead thermometers from mid-January to mid-September, only one person per 85,000 – or about 0.001% – later tested positive for SARS-CoV-2.

Body temperature may not be the best way to identify Covid-19 patients, they say, and even if it was, temperature scanning has two severe flaws. First, the noncontact infrared thermometers used for forehead readings are not necessarily accurate or reproducible and are easily influenced by “numerous human, environmental and equipment variables,” says co-author William Wright, an assistant professor of infectious diseases at Johns Hopkins. “The only way to reliably take the core temperature requires catherization of the pulmonary artery, which is neither safe nor practical as a screening test.”

Second, forehead temperature simply doesn’t always reflect core body temperature.

“During the period when a fever is rising, a rise in core temperature occurs that causes blood vessels near the skin’s surface to constrict and reduce the amount of heat they release,” Wright explains. “And during a fever drop, the opposite happens. So, basing a fever detection on [noncontact infrared thermometer] measurements that measure heat radiating from the forehead may be totally off the mark.”

If temperature scans continue, the authors suggest lowering the 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit baseline the CDC recommends and pairing wearable thermometers with smartphones to more accurately identify fever spikes.

For a bit more, go to Do forehead temperature scans prevent COVID? Some say no (fastcompany.com).

Why You Should Still Take Days Off This Holiday Season

A blog posted on the FastCompany webpage December 11, 2020 agrees that it might be tempting to save up your vacation days when you’re stuck at home anyway, but here’s why you still need to take time off this winter season. At the very least, getting away from work can change your perspective. Here’s how: 

According to the author, Art Markman, a professor of Psychology and Marketing at the University of Texas at Austin and Founding Director of the Program in the Human Dimensions of Organizations, “When you go to work every day without fail, it seems obvious what tasks you should be working on. …But it can be hard to figure out whether the accomplishments you strive for are really adding up to something significant that you will look back on with pride. Stepping away from your job for a week and engaging in other activities can break that narrative. Now, you’re talking to other people, reading other things, and remembering what it’s like to be a citizen of the world.”

As you do that, he says, you may also find that you change your mind about the overall importance of aspects of the contribution you are trying to make at work. Perhaps there are jobs that are lower down in your queue that deserve more attention. “After some time away, you may find yourself adjusting the priority of some goals.” 

Also, when you are up close and personal with your to-do list, it can be hard to escape the lengthening list of items added to it. As a result, you may find yourself checking off a lot of boxes without actually making progress on that all-important mission.

Taking time off can help with that too. Research demonstrates that you think about things that are physically distant from you more abstractly than you think about things that are physically close to you. Your vacation gets you physically (and mentally) distant from work. As a result, you are not plagued by thoughts of specific things that need to get done (at least after the first day or so of vacation). That can allow you to refocus on that mission.

When you return to work, you can flip through your to-do list and start figuring out which items are truly important because they are mission critical—and which are not. If you’re lucky enough to control your own schedule, you can just reorder your list. If not, you might need to sit down with a supervisor to talk about how to remove some tasks that seem less crucial in order to free up time for what really matters.

Usually, it’s important to have multiple pursuits in your life. Even if you can’t travel somewhere new, there is joy in reading a good book, pursuing a hobby or taking a walk on a beautiful day. Time away is a good reminder that your life is more than just your work.

For more of Markman’s reasoning, check out Why you should still take vacation time this holiday season (fastcompany.com).

Key Insights for Successful Hiring in the New Normal

An article produced by Robert Half for the December edition of the FEI Canada Finance and Accounting Review explains that the spread of Covid-19 has caused a wave of disruption for companies across Canada. But also a wave of innovation. From remote hiring and onboarding to socially distanced offices, practices that would have seemed on — or even beyond — the fringes just a few months ago are firmly in the mainstream.

Hiring managers planning to bring in new staff may need to revise their playbooks to account for these developments. So, what are the main trends affecting the current job market? And which skills are likely to be in high demand? 

According to Robert Half, the trend toward remote working predates the pandemic, especially in the creative and tech industries. But when physical distancing restrictions were implemented, telecommuting became a business necessity across a much broader spectrum of the economy, shaking up the more traditional “face time” culture of finance, accounting, corporate law firms and many other businesses.

Nearly three-quarters of workers polled in a survey said they want to work from home more often (74%), with 55% citing a better quality of life due to lack of commuting. For their part, employers have learned that home-based workers can be just as productive and innovative as their in-office counterparts. Firms that want to recruit and retain top talent should consider placing flexible work schedules and telecommuting options at the heart of their employment packages.

The move to virtual teams grants employers access to a deeper talent pool from a broader geographic area, even across time zones. According to a survey of more than 600 senior managers in Canada, 44% say their organization has hired full-time or temporary staff remotely since the pandemic began and, of those who hired, 75% conducted remote interviews and onboarding sessions and 55% expanded their search geographically to access a wider candidate pool.  “Thorough onboarding remains essential for integrating new employees. Savvy managers are arranging video sessions for remote hires to meet the team and assigning mentors to provide guidance and support from a distance.”

Firms that were on the path to digital transformation before 2020 had a competitive advantage. And the pandemic unmasked an even more pressing need for a much wider range of companies to automate their services and streamline their processes. This has put technology professionals with expertise in artificial intelligence (AI), cloud computing and cyber security in high demand, along with full-stack developers and DevOps engineers. Digital transformation and data-driven professionals are also sought, particularly as online retailers look to evolve their presence. 

Get more hiring information and advice at E-Newsletters | FEI Canada.

Young CPAs Learn to Adapt to Lead a Changing Profession

A blog posted by AICPA Communications on Dec 11, 2020, Young CPAs learn to adapt to lead a changing profession - AICPA Insights, puts into perspective how the accounting profession has undergone major changes of late. “New technologies are redefining client expectations and therefore how the profession works. Now, with the pandemic, the need to adapt has accelerated.”

The blog talks about the experience the 2020 AICPA Leadership Academy offered 29 young CPAs from firms, businesses and academia across the nation the opportunity to refine and enhance the skills they will need to meet the challenges of those changes. This year, the event was held virtually.

“I now not only have a better understanding of the importance of having a solid grasp on what is going on in my organization and the profession, but also understand how to look at the current state and plan for the future and be ready to adapt,” said 2020 academy graduate Jessica McClain, a CPA with Brand USA in Washington DC.

Attendees discussed key issues and interacted with influential leaders in the profession. Josh Russell, a CPA with Patterson, Prince & Associates PC in Florence, AL, said he was surprised by how much all the attendees had in common. “Whether we came from a large, medium or small firm, industry or organization, we all had many similar successes, struggles, stories, wants and experiences. Sometimes I think we treat public accounting firms like each group is in its own bucket based on size, but we all have things in common.”

One current that flowed through all the discussions was the coronavirus pandemic’s impact on the profession and the greater world. “Covid was really a catalyst for many changes the profession has been discussing for some time,” said John Confrey, a CPA with Mazars USA LLP in New York. “The profession can sometimes be slow to change, but COVID proved we can be adaptive.”

The accounting profession, particularly for younger CPAs, has a reputation for long, rigid office hours. The pandemic forced firms to adopt remote working and flexible schedules as well as rethink processes and efficiencies. Some are optimistic that the pandemic will spur the profession to more quickly and readily adopt new technologies into their practices.  “Organizations that had not implemented remote-working technology and digital, cloud-based systems have struggled in this environment,” said Russell. “Covid has shown that we have to embrace technology or risk dying out.”

As the profession and CPA licensure model develop, technology skills will be in greater demand. Confrey said he looks forward to seeing the potential they offer in the profession. “I see technology as a way to minimize routine tasks, allowing professionals to spend more time using their creative skills to problem-solve for their companies or clients,” he said. “I’m most interested in implementing robotic process automation [RPA] to improve processes.”