How have finance departments been impacted by a pandemic?

By Team bluQube

Whilst many of the challenges facing organisations throughout the UK have been well publicised, the impact on finances and the processes of finance departments up and down the country may not be widely known.

 

It’s imperative that we understand the impact the past year has had on our customers and the finance function of wider businesses. That's why we surveyed our own customers to uncover data on Remote Working, Technology, Challenges, Benefits and Changes in day-to-day roles, brought by the Covid-19 pandemic.


The financial impact of the pandemic

The pandemic has impacted organisations of all kinds, with every business, individual and industry having faced new challenges over the last 2 years.

The big change of course, was the introduction of remote working, which many finance teams and back-office functions adopted for 2020, much of 2021 and is continuing into 2022. This presented extraordinary challenges as many financial systems and processes simply weren’t technologically set up for remote access. As a result, technology and software have played an enormous part in helping finance teams continue to fulfil their roles against adverse conditions.

The impact of the pandemic has presented new ways of working along with unforecasted financial investment and losses.

All organisations have had to adapt to enable remote working for staff, which led to additional investments in training, technology as well as investments in a safe, socially-distanced environment when staff returned to the office.

 

Who we’ve surveyed

We surveyed bluQube customers working throughout the UK, covering a broad range of sectors across the commercial, non-profit and public sectors.

Respondents covered a full breadth of seniority throughout the finance function, from admin level, through Finance Managers, Head of Finance, Finance Directors, and VPs of Finance.

About the survey respondents


The extent of finance professionals on furlough

As of June 14, 2021, approximately 11.6 million jobs, from 1.3 million different employers were furloughed in the United Kingdom as part of the government’s job retention scheme. The day with the most jobs furloughed at once was May 8, 2020, when 8.86 million jobs were on the job retention scheme*.

 

96%
continued to work as normal throughout the pandemic.

Thankfully, in the cross-section of our own customers at least, the data shows very few experienced time off work during the pandemic.

Within those, we have customers within education and non-profit, undoubtedly having to continue working due to the valuable services their organisations provide. For commercial businesses, as long as they had the right technology in place, the finance function will have been able to continue largely as normal in a remote environment. Minimising the need for finance staff being placed on furlough, in comparison to colleagues in service industries.

* Cumulative number of jobs furloughed under the job retention scheme UK 2020-2021. Published by D. Clark, Jul 12, 2021 | www.statista.com/statistics/1116638/uk-number-of-people-on-furlough/


Challenges & solutions

In industry, as in life, change of any kind creates a ripple that requires a response.

Change of the scale the pandemic has caused has required an immediate response resulting in many new processes and new ways of working.

It was always clear that for those without the infrastructure and the benefit of cloud-based systems already in place, technology was going to be the major stumbling point – what’s really interesting is how remote working and reliance on remote processes has also impacted ‘softer skills’ such as collaborative working and motivation.

 

What challenges did you face these past 18 months?

What challenges did you face these past 18 months?


How would you describe the suitability of your role to be effectively performed remotely?

Ability to work remotely


Your working location

Everyone’s experience of the pandemic has varied. Whether you found yourself working from the kitchen table, in the spare bedroom, in the shed, or even back in the office, many in finance have experienced a different way of working.

It’s evident that many people’s experience has far from returned to normal. Now that many finance departments have the infrastructure in place to allow people to work away from the office – and seen that they can work successfully remotely – it’ll be interesting to see in the next two years whether a mass migration back to the office will happen at all.

 

Have you worked remotely and where is your primary work location now?

Have you worked remotely?


The positive impacts

Not all change is bad. Would we wish for such a catastrophic impetus for change? No, but having the industries hand forced, has provided newfound flexibility and opportunity for many.

 

What positive impacts did remote working have on you or your department?

The positive impacts


An early evolution

It’s clear that initiatives to better utilise new technologies within accountancy and finance were already underway in many organisations,  but the necessity for remote working has, without doubt, sped up the process.

How has working remotely this year impacted digital transformation in your finance department?

An early evolution

The ability to adapt is one of mankind’s greatest strengths. Any adaptation happens fastest when we’re faced with no alternative, just look at the speed science was able to roll out and approve a range of vaccination solutions.

Remote working has meant finance teams are simply unable to rely on the paper solutions they once did. The resulting digitisation of accounting processes is something finance departments will surely continue to reap the benefit of once back in the office – speeding up processes, providing secure access and making for more efficient reporting and auditing.


An ‘average’ day in a pandemic

Average is not a word you could apply to the last few years in finance, but it’s important to understand what the typical day – during a pandemic – looks like.

 

In the past year, how much time have you spent on these typical finance tasks, in comparison to the previous year?

An average day in a pandemic

The biggest impact however was the need to develop or implement new processes, with 78% saying they were spending more time on this than previous years.


The future of finance

It goes without saying they’ll be some invaluable learnings that come out of all of this.

The hope is we can look back at the difficulties you’ve faced and find positives in how this time has helped advance many of the more rigid financial processes towards smarter solutions.

 

What do you expect to be the biggest changes your finance department will go through in the next 5 years?

The future of finance

Clearly remote working during the pandemic was going to have some lasting effects.

Half of all respondents thought remote working would become standard practice in the next 5 years.

65% believed they would see an increase in flexible working hours.

55% of respondents thought that we would see an increase in new revenue streams for their organisation – No doubt in part as a reaction to the lost revenues many faced, particularly in the early stages of the pandemic.

65% expected to see greater automation of financial functions, however, unexpectedly 80% did not see their role evolving to become more strategic. Although 40% believed that their role would see a greater focus on analytics and modelling going forward - perhaps a knock-on of those manual tasks becoming more automated.


Wrap up

The true impact of the pandemic on the finance function is something that’ll be borne out over the next five years. That being said, the data we saw even in the first few months of the pandemic already suggested a requirement for increasingly flexible, interoperable, secure access to finance systems has become an irreversible fact of finance going forward.

To discover more about the service and support provided by bluQube’s intuitive cloud accounting software, don’t hesitate to get in touch and book a demo.

 

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