Tommy Doherty, a partner at Mazars international audit, tax, and advisory firm in Dublin says that one of the first things he missed when working from home during the Covid-19 pandemic was the journey to and from the office. His 45-minute drive from Greystones in Co Wicklow into Dublin city centre allowed him to prepare for his working day in the morning and unwind from it on his way home.
Much of his working day from his home office (formerly his children’s playroom) has been spent on back-to-back Microsoft Teams meetings or Zoom calls.
“After the first lockdown, I needed to get back into the office for a while. I remember being on a call when my children were playing outside and being on the point of shouting out the window at them,” he explains. However, all in all, he found it easy to concentrate especially during the audit season from November to March when he is at his busiest. “The children were very good and didn’t come into the room when I was working,” he says.
Comparing how his work changed, he says, “usually, I’m interacting with about 65 people in the office and then crisscrossing Ireland to go to client sites but all of that interaction had to move to Zoom and Teams calls – often without any gap between calls.
“There was very little time to digest what happened in each meeting as you previously would when have when driving somewhere else or walking from one meeting to another.”
Doherty explains how the pandemic also resulted in extra work for managers, both through dealing with the financial uncertainly it created for Mazars’ clients and facilitating how all the usual office processes could move safely online.
“We had to ensure that our teams were equipped to think about all these matters as they worked through an audit,” he explains.
Doherty feels strongly that while technology allowed work to continue during the pandemic, face-to-face contact between employees and clients is far superior, takes less time, and allows for more valuable interactions.
However, his company did make some effort to create informal connections between staff during remote working by setting up virtual coffee breaks on Friday mornings.
“The audit department was split in half so we would chat to any one of about 40 people as if we were randomly meeting them in the kitchen. We also set up ways for peer groups to meet together and allocated managers to meet with new graduates who had never been into the office,” he says.
Looking ahead, Doherty says. “There will probably be a new way to work together after this. What’s most important for me is to get out and see clients again. It won’t be five days in the office or five days at home. It will be what matches best with what the client needs from the service we provide to them.”