Preparing Your Accounting Firm for the Potential of Coronavirus in the Chicagoland Area – 7 Considerations

The Coronavirus (COVID-19) has caused illness, hospitalization, and death on a global scale. Nightly newscasts and mobile device push notifications from news outlets display a running total of those populations and areas that have been impacted.

While the average business owner in North America has yet to feel the impact of an affected workforce or the dip in the stock market, it is important to be on guard.

In this article, we’ll discuss 7 areas your accounting firm should be considering or protecting in this Coronavirus epidemic.

  • Follow the Recommendations of the CDC
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are working tirelessly to protect the population of the USA and by extension, the population of other countries, from the spread of COVID-19. As part of a holistic approach to that effort, the CDC has put together a list of recommendations that leaders of accounting firms should be considering. These recommendations found at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/guidance-business-response.html are summarized in the following points:

    • Encourage sick employees to stay home
    • Separate sick employees
    • Emphasize staying home when sick, respiratory etiquette, and hand hygiene by all employees
    • Perform routine environmental cleaning
    • Advise employees to take precautions before travelling
    • Advise employees to exercise wisdom in their decision to come to work if someone in employee’s home is symptomatic
    • Make employees aware of their potential exposure to the virus if one of the colleagues they work with closely has been diagnosed with COVID-19

  • Don’t Click on Links from Unverified Sources
  • Unfortunately, one of the things that the Coronavirus has in common with natural disasters is the tendency of criminals to see this outbreak of disease as an opportunity to prey on others.

    The FTC is already warning businesses about clicking on unverified links.

    Links and ads designed to get you and your employees to click to nefarious web pages come in the form of offering everything from information on the virus to necessary supplies and cures to combat the disease.

    Your company should have a robust email security strategy in place that deals with spam and suspicious emails at the server level. If your accounting firm’s email systems currently fall short in this area or if your employees need a refresher on cybersecurity awareness best practices, the Alavanca Systems’ team would be happy to help.

  • Consider Work-from-Home Scenarios
  • While we have been aiding accounting firms in their quest to harness the advantages of mobile work and work-from-home options for quite some time, an epidemic wasn’t on our radar. However, having hosted desktop technology in place does allow your firm some flexibility in combating the spread of this disease in the workplace.

    What do you need for an employee to securely work on client files at home?

    • A computer at the employee’s home
    • A dependable internet connection at the employee’s home
    • VPN technology to secure transmission of data between the company’s system and the employee’s computer
    • Hosted desktop technology that allows your employee to utilize the operating system, applications, databases, and personalized settings of their work computer
    • A VoIP phone. These internet-based phone systems provide a seamless, professional telephone experience for your callers, regardless of the location of the employee answering the call.

    In close connection to the warning about clicking suspicious links in emails and on web pages is the warning to check out charities before donating. If your workplace wants to be a help to others by donating financially to a charity that is doing good work, that’s fantastic!

    But be on guard, and make sure your money ends up in helping hands not criminal’s pockets.

    Coronavirus charity scams come in all shapes and sizes, from online entities posing as CDC/WHO official representatives, to brand new “charities”, “foundations”, or “fundraising events” that are only geared toward stealing money.

    We encourage your accounting firm to be involved in legitimate local charities and national/international charities with long-standing track records.

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  • Guard Against False News Reporting
  • Technology allows us to either ride the wave of information or to get swallowed up by misinformation. “Fake news” gets pushed to us through niche “news outlets” with a bias as readily as through social media bots programmed by criminals and rogue nation-states.

    Your accounting firm’s staff must be firmly rooted in good information coming from the CDC and WHO.

    Having timely information in conjunction with the latest suggested steps of action does three things in the workplace.

    • Keeps employees from panicking and allows them to focus on their work.
    • Helps employees avoid mistakes that can make them more vulnerable.
    • Dampens the spread of Coronavirus conspiracy theories and crackpot cures throughout the organization.

  • Make Sure That Clients, Vendors, and Business Partners Take Appropriate Precautions
  • You are responsible for your business. The problem is, there are others out there that will not take their part in curbing the spread of COVID-19 seriously.

    What are you going to do about:

    • Clients who insist on showing up to meetings when obviously suffering from flu or cold-like symptoms
    • Vendors who send seemingly symptomatic employees into your facility to perform their duties

    By making some policy decisions now and making all parties aware of your firm’s expectations, you can cut down on your exposure while keeping valuable relationships intact.

  • Prepare for the Worst, Pray for the Best
  • As IT consultants for accounting firms in Chicagoland, we often talk with clients about business continuity plans. We ask the question, “How are you going to run your business, protect your investment, and pay your employees if you lose access to your data and technology?”

    While that’s a perfectly appropriate question in most scenarios, the bigger question is, “How are you going to run your business if your people get sick?”

    Planning for a worst-case scenario requires company leaders to face the potential of disaster and to reverse engineer from that point to avoid the potential of catastrophe.

    From enacting work-from-home scenarios and employee health policies to passing on scientifically-backed C0VID-19 information, you can take control of those precautions you have at your disposal before disaster strikes.

    Ciro
    Ciro

    Ciro Cetrangolo is an IT specialist with over 30+ years in the IT services industry. Ciro has a deep understanding of the software, workflow, and underlying technology of accounting organizations and helps firms like yours achieve the secure, stable, and streamlined IT environments you need to accomplish your work more effectively. See my Amazon Author Profile

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