A week ago, I would have told you that unprecedented times is an expression I think is overkill. I would have told you that I’m confident things will get back to normal soon. My tune has changed.
First and foremost, I want you to know that IFAC is here to support our member organizations across the world. We understand that our members are being affected differently by this public health crisis and IFAC remains open to be of service, support, and advice. Some of our member jurisdictions may not yet be as impacted by COVID-19 as we are in the US, Europe or China. While we hope these jurisdictions continue to only see low numbers of cases and lower impact, some professional accountancy organizations (PAOs) may not feel the urgency to take the necessary steps to prepare to work virtually should it become necessary.
I believe this is could be a costly mistake. Please learn from our experiences and plan now for virtual operation.
A week ago, all IFAC staff started working from home. I’m very grateful that we’re well set-up to do so. We’ve had a flex work policy in place for some time, and I’ve been working remotely regularly for the last couple of years. About a year ago we pivoted to using Microsoft 365 and Zoom for much of our engagement and meetings. Although not always easy and not with the same experience as physical meetings, these digital tools enable virtual engagement and productivity. Of course, what was once a nice-to-have is now a must-have, even more so as an international organization. We are all adjusting to working from home for the next several weeks, maybe months. It’s certainly challenging but overall, we had the systems in place to be effective and transition smoothly.
As the COVID-19 situation has unfolded, we’re seeing many of our member organizations make similar course changes. Like IFAC, some are well prepared to pivot to have staff working and engaging virtually. Our member organizations likely have greater challenges in providing continuing professional development (CPD) and exams to their members. Many are developing novel enhancements to their already strong virtual operations, which will serve their organization well, even after COVID-19 is behind us.
At IFAC, we’ve pulled together resources and experiences from our network to share learnings and material on our website. We have launched a COVID-19 dedicated page to aggregate important content and information that can help all of us navigate through these unprecedented times. Many of our member organizations have led the way in creating COVID-19 content hubs; this web page pulls these resources together, adding information from other key sources as well as our own insights.
We will evolve and curate this site over the days and weeks to come, and we welcome additional content that you believe may help others in the profession.
Again, for those member organizations that have not yet pivoted, I urge you to formulate a plan to do so immediately. This could start small with a dedicated telephone number or email to support your members’ concerns. It could then evolve into a dedicated web page, document, or mailing. Eventually, it would ideally transform into an organizational-wide system to deliver services to members virtually.
This is not just the flu, and I don’t believe any country will go unchanged from this. It’s far better to be prepared and not have to use the plan, than to be unprepared.