“To know reality is to accept it, and eventually to love it.” – George Wald
Last week a new reality began and I am working on accepting it. I began working from home, we had a 5.7 magnitude earthquake wake us up one morning and have had aftershocks since. We have had home church the past two Sundays. My three boys began schooling from home and the US Treasury gave us more time to file and pay our taxes. That made for an eventful week.
What does this new reality mean for me and for my family? It would seem that home has become the new office, new church, new school, new restaurant and new theater. We are having different experiences and adjusting to a different way of daily life. My two social boys have to learn to practice social distancing with friends and my introvert son is in heaven. My wife has not gone crazy having us around the house all the time (yet). We each have moved our lives back into the home and are now living large parts of our lives “remotely.”
Working, churching, schooling, etc. remotely is different and to make it work well. We have had to learn and adjust. I think I am still learning and adjusting. While our kids have laptop computers, we have had a “no electronics” in the bedroom (and bathroom) policy for our boys for a long time. They have to use their electronics and do homework out in the open. With all three of them on video classroom calls and instruction at the same time, we have had to suspend the rule to allow them use of electronics (for school only) in their bedrooms. It would be hard to focus with three conversations going on in the same space. I am working at the dining table while the youngest son is at the desktop on the desk about 15 feet away and the older two boys are schooling in their bedrooms. I miss my office setup…
So what have I learned so far by working remotely?
1 – Setup is important. At my office, I have an adjustable computer desk, comfortable and adjustable office chair, multiple monitors and a printer and scanner to my side. At home I have a fixed height table, a lightly padded dining chair and my laptop. If this situation is to continue for a while (which I think it might), I should bring home some of my office setup to make working from home more comfortable.
2 – While I may be working, I am also home. The commute is wonderful but when your spouse is upset the hairy son shaved his beard and clogged the sink drain and the said son is at work and not able to address the issue – you are home to address the issue. As people finish school before I finish work, they begin to watch television and raid the kitchen while I am a few feet away still working. A dedicated space outside of the traffic of the home will be needed if this is long term. As we don’t have an empty room or study, we may have to rearrange bedroom situations to make this happen.
3 – The home office doesn’t close. Working at my office, when a certain time came I would close up my computer and head home and be home with my family. Working from home, I have found that I would continue working past that normal “quitting time” and work much later into the evening. I am not sure why that has occurred. It may be the additional stress and anxiety over the unknown in the situation and me trying to cope or it is taking longer to get stuff off my to-do list because of distractions. I need to be better at shutting the computer off and “going home.”
4 – Maintaining a routine is important. Getting up and “going” to work needs to happen. I need to maintain my routine and rhythms to be more productive. I need to start my day with a mini-strategy session before moving on to tasks. I need to get up and move at regular intervals. I need to be serious about maintaining my office routine in my home office.
5 – My wife is awesome. I already knew this but being home all day has allowed me to see the many big and little things she does for me and our family that go unnoticed due to a lack of audience paying attention. I have become more grateful for her.
I hope you and your families are adjusting to these unusual times and are staying safe. We are doing our best and trying to accept and love our new reality. We love you and are praying for you, our country and the world.
Growing up you may have heard the story of Chicken Little. There are different versions of the story but basically, a nut or a leaf fell from a tree onto the tail of Chicken Little startling the little bird and Chicken Little then goes around the barnyard telling everyone the sky is falling creating a panic from nothing. Sometimes, there really is something to worry about such as the recent COVID-19 virus. The virus is something we should take seriously. Do we need to panic? I don’t think so. The constant voices on the television and internet repeating “the sky is falling” have created a panic.
How do we deal with something serious without the panic? For some, it was to run out and buy water and toilet paper – a small thing that probably didn’t do much to make them physically more prepared but a big thing mentally to assure them that they did something to prepare while being uncertain of all that needed to be done to prepare. Thousands of people doing the same thing created a bit more of a panic but each of them were able to experience some sort of mental relief from worry in the simple act.
I don't think I know of anyone who will not be impacted by this virus in some shape or form. I have clients whose businesses are already struggling as a result of this virus. I have clients who have conditions that make the virus more troublesome for them. I have clients who have seen their investments and retirement funds quickly shrink. Schools have moved to online classes. Church meetings have been cancelled. Borders have been closed. Vacations have been cancelled. Restaurants may not offer sit-down dining. Grocery store shelves have been emptied. All of you and your families are in my thoughts and prayers.
The best advice for dealing with the virus right now from the things I have read is to frequently wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, avoid touching your face, keep your distance socially and isolate if you feel symptoms (dry cough, headache, high fever, shortness of breath), seek medical attention if you are having difficulty breathing or prolonged high fever, follow the advice and instructions of government agencies and look out for each other.
To my clients - As you place your trust in me as your CPA, I would be amiss if I didn't first thank you for your business over the years and second to let you know I care about you and my thoughts are with you.
I want you to know that I am committed to timely completing your tax and accounting work. With social distancing recommended, I have started working from my home office and using technology for virtual client meetings and document gathering. I know that the technology solutions don't work for all of my clients and I will work out options with them individually.
I also understand that some of my clients may be impacted financially, such that paying me for my services at this time may be a burden. I want you to be taken care of properly. If this is an issue for you, please discuss this with me and we can make arrangements outside of my normal terms.
My email and phone numbers remain unchanged. Please reach out if you have concerns you want to walk through. Having a plan in place alleviates the fear but doesn’t take away the discomfort of what you are going through.
The IRS announced yesterday an extension to pay your individual and corporate taxes for the 2019 year to July 15th from April 15th. They did not extend the due date to file. If you need more time to file your taxes, we will extend as usual. States may follow suit.
SBA disaster loans are becoming available to assist with the impact to your businesses.
Paid sick leave programs for those impacted by the virus are currently being discussed in the Congress and Senate.
Other federal financial assistance programs are also being proposed.
To my friends and those I haven’t met yet – I care about you too. Life is filled with good all around us and if you look for it, you will see it. If you need someone to talk to about your fears, impacts on your business, or life – feel free to reach out.
Remember the words of Mr. Rogers, “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’” I am grateful for all the helpers around me.
As I have examined my own emotions through this unusual time, I haven’t felt fear. I haven’t felt unprepared. I haven’t panicked. I have felt a little bit anxious as I don't know what is next and what I will need to plan and prepare for. I think each of us are feeling some form of unusual and uncomfortable emotions with this situation.
I believe the best way to overcome panic and fear is to be prepared. Examine your situation and your business situation. Make a plan to improve the elements of your situation that you can control knowing you can’t control everything. Ask yourself the most likely “what if” questions – what if my suppliers are impacted and can’t get me my parts regularly? What if my workforce gets sick? What if there is quarantine and we can’t leave our homes? Etc.
The leaders of the church I attend have, for a long time, encouraged us to prepare for emergencies by setting aside a store of food, skills and money to draw on in times of need. Heeding their counsel - I have a reserve of food, a reserve of money, and have developed skills I might need to rely on. I also have supportive family and friends and a helpful community. Being prepared gives us a sense of peace. I had to test my emergency plan and use those reserves many years ago when I was unemployed for six months. I was eager in my job search during that time but I was never fearful because of our preparation. It seems being prepared prevents panic.
Regardless of where you are at currently in your preparation, all is not lost. Make a plan for preparedness and start working it. You are never farther behind than when you start.
Stay safe and wash your hands. We are thinking of you and praying for all impacted.
This blog allows you to experience the raw, gut wrenching drama of human conflict through accounting in each of its three stages: preparing to do battle, the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.