child with paint on hands

18 tips to successfully juggle working from home with the kids

Thousands of parents have been juggling two to three full-time jobs for the past 11 weeks now: their normal job, 24/7 childcare, and for some, becoming a teacher. With the recent news of schools not reopening now until later this year, it’s looking like this won’t be ending any time soon either.

As if this wasn’t painful enough, the Coronavirus has also piled on other stresses and worries whether financially, medically, technologically or logistically, all of which are just adding to the challenge of making it through this period unscathed.

To help try and ease some of this pressure for parents, this article outlines essential tips that can make working from home with children just that little bit easier.

  1. Designate a place at home as your “office” and create your ideal workspace.
  2. Set boundaries with your children when it comes to your workspace and your work time.
  3. Create a new daily routine that satisfies your work needs and your family needs.
  4. Plan ahead as tasks and projects are likely to take longer.
  5. Be flexible with your schedule as some days your children will need you more (if you plan ahead, this will be easier).
  6. If you have young children, capitalise on naptime. Save the deep-thinking stuff for these moments so that you can work smarter, not harder.
  7. Communicate more than you think you need to with your family and your colleagues. Everyone will understand and will be compassionate if you just communicate.
  8. Create a list of ‘special activities’ with your children that they can only do in your work time. It will give them something to look forward to and keep them occupied while you work.
  9. Communicate with the school so that they can help you prioritise the most important learning areas. If you triage these, it eases the pressure for everyone.
  10. Do some ‘emergency drills’ to teach your children how they should behave when you’re on an important phone call or video call.
  11. Reward good behaviour by offering incentives such as a pizza night or extra screen time and deter bad behaviour by revoking these privileges.
  12. Share household chores to reinforce this ‘we’re all in this together’ mentality. It will make your children feel valued and it will take a lot of pressure off of you.
  13. Take shifts with your partner if possible. You can work the first half of the day while they are in charge of schooling and around lunchtime, you can switch.
  14. Don’t expect to work at your normal capacity as this is a very stressful time for everyone. Plan ahead with work and give yourself extra time to complete tasks. This will set you up for success rather than failure.
  15. Take regular breaks to switch off from work so that you can go back refreshed and renewed with energy. This will make you more productive.
  16. Accept that spare time for your children will probably mean more screen time. This is not the end of the world so try to not feel guilty. Let them know that this privilege is only temporary and make the most of it to get your work done.
  17. Exercise together often, especially in the mornings. If you do a P.E. session with your children in the mornings, they’ll be able to sit for longer periods to focus on their school work.
  18. Be kind to yourself and pat yourself on the back for a job well done. Juggling work with 24/7 childcare and schooling is challenging to say the least so remind yourself that it doesn’t have to be perfect, it just needs to be good enough.

Businesses Need To Reinstate VAT Direct Debits

The deferral of VAT payments due to coronavirus comes to an end on 30 June and businesses need to take action to reinstate their direct debit mandates.

The Institute of Chartered accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) Tax Faculty has reminded its members.

The VAT payment deferral means that all UK VAT-registered businesses have the option to defer VAT payments due between 20 March and 30 June 2020 until 31 March 2021.

However, ICAEW is reminding businesses that they need to take steps to reinstate their direct debit mandates so that they are in place in time for payments due in July 2020 onwards. Any outstanding returns should be filed, and three working days should be allowed to elapse before reinstating the direct debit mandate.

HMRC will issue guidance on the end of the VAT deferral period very soon but, to be effective, direct debit mandates usually need to be set up three working days before a VAT return is filed.

We cannot set up direct debit mandates on behalf of our clients; the business needs to set up the mandate through their business tax account.

HMRC has confirmed that it will not collect the outstanding balance of deferred VAT when the direct debit mandate is reinstated. HMRC has made the necessary systems change to avoid this happening for businesses in MTD for VAT.

Click here to find out more

Girl with headphones

Supervising trainees remotely

With the changes in working practices COVID-19 has caused and the likelihood that many people will be working remotely for the foreseeable future, it is also worth considering how this impacts on the trainee experience and their supervision.  To help with this, we have compiled some tips and ideas on how you can effectively supervise your trainee and continue to give them a meaningful learning experience whilst working remotely.

Part A: Supervising Trainees

Tip One – ‘drop in clinics’

A key element of the learning experience for a trainee is the ability to ask questions as they go along.  When working alongside a supervisor and team, this is as simple as turning around and asking that question when it crops up.  However, remote working can make this extremely difficult as you can’t see if someone is available to ask that question.  Setting aside time each day (perhaps early morning and post lunch) for a 15 minute ‘clinic’ with your trainee gives them clear times (and permission) to call you with any questions they may have and not feel they are interrupting.

Tip Two – Break work down into smaller tasks

When allocating work to a trainee, depending on their level of experience, it may be beneficial to break the work down into smaller tasks.  Rather than asking them to draft a recommendation, break the task down into firstly conducting the research, then discussing what they have learnt before finally producing their recommendation

Tip Three – New skills

Working remotely and social distancing has resulted in new ways of working that are likely to stay with us.  These ways of working involve new skills (such as running virtual meetings, presenting live webinars and workshops, interpreting a client’s mood without being in the room with them, self discipline and time management) that will be essential for a trainee to develop (as well as the rest of us!).   Ensuring that time is set aside to help a trainee develop these skills will help to enhance the learning experience.  In addition, as many are already more tech savvy than some of us, they may also be able to teach us a thing or too!

Tip Four – Separate wellbeing catch ups and work-focussed meetings

Setting specific time aside to discuss the wellbeing of your trainee that is separate to the normal catch up to discuss progress against objectives and upcoming work will ensure that both are covered on a regular basis and gives your trainee permission to discuss non-work related matters that could impact them (and ultimately their performance).

Part B – Enhancing the trainee experience

Tip One – Encourage trainees to chat

They probably already have their own WhatsApp group and/or other means of staying in touch, but encouraging this from a learning (sharing experiences and ideas) as well as a wellbeing perspective adds value to the trainee experience.

Tip Two – Team meetings

As mentioned previously, running virtual meetings as well as presenting remotely are new skills that would be beneficial for trainees to develop.  Consider how you can use team meetings as a safe place for your trainee to start developing these skills.

Tip Three – Project work

Either as an individual or as a cohort, giving your trainees a business-related (and real) project or projects they can work on and own not only enhances their experience as trainees but can also have a real benefit to your business.

Tip Four – Get their feedback

Whilst many firms traditionally bring their trainees together once (or twice a year) to get their feedback on experiences (as well as for additional learning, creating a sense of belonging etc.) you may wish to consider a more frequent feedback  and idea collation mechanism that ensures current views are captured and your trainees feel listened to.  You never know, they may come up with a suggestion that has real impact on your business!

For any additional advice on supervising and developing your trainees remotely, our team is on hand to help.  If you have any thoughts on the  above or any suggested additions to this advice we would be delighted to hear from you.

Team of hands

8 Key Principles to lead your team and enhance performance

Whether leading in person or virtually, there are 8 principles that you can adopt to improve team performance. Many organisations are adjusting to remote or virtual working and the majority of managers have no training in how to manage staff that aren’t physically in the same office, which impacts on team performance.

We’ve produced separate guidance on managing a team remotely, so for now we’ll focus on how to lead, in or out of the office.

1. People don’t set out to be poor performers

The majority of people have good intentions and don’t want to be poor performers. There are 3 factors to consider before deciding on someone’s performance:

  1. The situation or environment that they’re working in
  2. Organisational culture
  3. Leadership

2. We get the team we deserve

The culture of a firm is shaped by the worst performance that a leader will tolerate. If a leader is too busy to notice or wants to avoid talking to a low performer, other team members will take note.

In general, it’s good practice to speak to all staff on a regular basis regardless of performance. That way, if a high performer slows down, you’re already aware of what might be behind it e.g. illness, caring for dependents etc.

If you haven’t been having regular conversations, the first step is to establish what’s going on. At the moment Covid-19 is the most obvious cause, since we know many people have had problems with things like access to broadband, a space to work, sickness and childcare. You may not be able to solve all problems, but you can fix some, if you know about them.

3. How your team perform is your responsibility

At first glance this seems unfair. Surely an adult is responsible for their own performance? But leaders are there to set priorities, ensure everyone has the information and tools to get on with their jobs and maintain a culture where staff are able to discuss anything else they need to get things done. For example, if a leader doesn’t give a clear explanation of what needs to be done and then creates an environment where no one can ask more questions, a member of staff could deliver something different, or spend a long time trying to guess what is wanted.

There is also a risk that if you tell staff to set their own priorities, they might not have the same vision for the business as you do. As a leader, you need them to follow your plan.

4. If someone is a long-term low performer, then you haven’t lost anything if they leave

It can be difficult to sit someone down and tell them that they aren’t performing well. If you’ve gone through the process of discussing their circumstances and the environment you’re working in, then thought about whether your organisational culture and leadership could be an issue and still have issues with performance, you’ll know that you’ve tried everything possible to resolve it informally. Many businesses rush to consult an HR specialist, before speaking to their employee, which can create unnecessary resentment.

5. We underestimate how much we actually know and how long it takes someone else to do it for us

When delegating a task, we tend to underestimate how much we know and how long it would take for someone else to take over, so when someone first starts a task they may look too slow. It’s frustrating when you’re busy, but delegating successfully does mean spending time creating detailed instructions. If you prefer not to write, or struggle to remember what you didn’t know when you first started working on the job you want to delegate, you could try recording video tutorials, explaining what you’re doing and why.

6. Everyone has a learning curve and no one is a mind reader

As mentioned in point 5, we have to make allowances when someone is carrying out a new task. They may have questions you haven’t thought of, or not understand why you’ve taken a shortcut or used a particular method. A little investment in time in the early stages will save time in the long run and you should see an improvement in performance as they get more practice.

If you’re concerned that staff are coming to you with the same questions, or are moving too slowly, a coaching approach is useful. Rather than giving answers, you could ask “what have you thought of or tried?”

7. Hire for attitude first, experience and skills second

No one can predict what might affect your employees in the future, but you can reduce the risk of low performance by getting the hiring process right. Companies tend to focus on the qualifications and experience that a potential employee has, but it’s important that their values are aligned with your business. For example, one business may value creative problem-solvers, while another needs people to solve problems by following set processes.

8. Making it always safe to talk to you is what makes a great people manager

Everything is tied together by communication. Leaders need to know what’s going on and what might affect productivity, not just what the output is. Two things that are highly effective, but often forgotten are:

Know when to apologise – if you see something’s gone wrong due to unclear communication, it’s helpful to say “I could have been clearer”. It emphasises that you’re open to answering questions where instructions aren’t clear.

Praise where it’s due – recognising good performance publicly encourages the rest of the team and keeps everyone motivated.

Business news update

C19 Business News Update

What’s Going On Now?

As time goes on it is getting harder and harder to keep track of all the Government changes. We have put together this blog to summarise the latest changes.


Everyone’s actions have helped to reduce the transmission of coronavirus in our communities. Fatalities and infection rates continue to fall.

The government has set out its plan to return life to as near normal as we can, for as many people as we can, as quickly and fairly as possible in order to safeguard livelihoods, but in a way that is safe and continues to protect the NHS. The most important thing we can continue to do is to stay alert, control the virus, and, in doing so, save lives.

This guidance applies in England – people in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland should follow the specific rules in those parts of the UK.

Click here for more information


An additional £63 million has been confirmed by government to be distributed to local authorities in England to help those who are struggling to afford food and other essentials due to coronavirus.

Local authorities are already working to support those who are vulnerable, and this additional funding will contribute to that work.

Many have existing mechanisms to provide this support in a way that suits the needs of their community. This includes provision of cash payments, food vouchers, or alternative means of support.

Click here for more information


This guidance provides advice on the management of staff and patients or residents in health and social care settings according to exposures, symptoms and test results. It includes:

  • staff with symptoms of COVID-19
  • staff return to work criteria
  • patient exposures in hospital
  • resident exposures in care settings

Please note that this guidance is of a general nature and that an employer should consider the specific conditions of each individual place of work and comply with all applicable legislation, including the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974.

There may be further information specific to each country in the United Kingdom, as this guidance was written by Public Health England primarily for an English health professional audience. To see if country specific information is available, please refer to Health Protection Scotland, Public Health Wales, or Public Health Agency in Northern Ireland.

Click here for more information


This guidance has been updated 12 June.

Click here for the guidance

Must do's for remote workers

2 Must-Dos to Help Your Team Work From Home

It’s looking like remote working will be the ‘new normal’ as we ease our way out of lockdown. While this is the best decision for the safety of employees, it’s not great for business.

To make it through the current crisis in the best position possible, you need to add “helping your employees create a new working routine” to your business strategy. Here’s what you need to do.

1. Help them create a new daily routine

In such an uncertain time, we all need structure in our day-to-day lives. Having a routine not only gives us a sense of control and purpose, but it also reduces stress and increases our productivity too.

To help your employees work from home, here are 4 steps that you can introduce to them:

  • Step 1 – Write down what you NEED to do each day
  • Step 2 – Discuss your routine with your spouse or family
  • Step 3 – Keep to your routine and adjust to what works best 
  • Step 4 – Focus on being consistent but be prepared for change

2. Communicate often and check in regularly 

After you’ve given your employees the tools for creating an ideal work routine, you then need to provide them with support to help them work as productively as possible.

Everyone will need different levels of support during this time, so here are a few ways you can engage with them and check-in to see how they are coping:

  • Use instant messaging apps and video-conferencing software for quick communication.
  • Maintain a regular meeting schedule to give them an extra layer of structure to their day.
  • Find new ways to collaborate, maybe on more of a personal level (e.g. a book club or an exercise class).
  • Be responsive to your employees and pick up the phone now and then to check-in with them.

Make remote working as productive as working in the office! 

By helping your team with their daily routine, you’re investing time in them and therefore the future of your practice. This is essential to make it through this difficult time so give your employees the tools and the support to work as productively as they do in the office.

Tips for when an employee is reluctant to return to work

Are your employees reluctant to return to the workplace?

With the recent easing of lockdown restrictions, several businesses are asking some of their employees to return to the workplace when working from home is not a realistic option.  Whilst this is a reasonable ask, there will be some employees that are either reluctant or concerned about returning to the workplace.  To help with this, we have developed some tips to guide you through how you might approach this.

Step 1– Considerations prior to speaking with the employee

These circumstances are new to us all so, before speaking with the individual you may wish to reflect on whether there are any additional measures you can put in place ease someone’s concern’s about returning to the workplace:

  • Tip 1 – Review the reasons behind wanting the employee to return to the workplace.  Is it possible that the role can be done remotely (fully or partially)?
  • Tip 2 – Review the workplace safety measures you have put in place (social distancing, staggering working hours, cleaning, PPE etc).  Is there something that could/should be done that would increase confidence for those returning to the workplace?
  • Tip 3 – Consider other employees may be feeling the same but not voicing their concerns.

Step 2  – Having a meaningful conversation

Hold a virtual meeting or call with the individual to explore their concerns.  Each individual will have experienced lockdown differently so it is important to understand where their concerns are coming from:

  • Tip 1Starting the conversation, don’t jump straight in – By starting the conversation with a general check in, then outline the purpose of the call as well as let them know it is ok to be feeling anxious they are more likely to feel comfortable expressing their concerns and you are more likely to come up with a workable solution.
  • Tip 2 – Explore further than the initial response.  Whilst citing child care issues may be both true and a very real concern it may not be the underlying reason they are reluctant to return, including (but not limited to):
  • Concerns relating to commuting on public transport
  • Child care commitments
  • Mental health issues that have developed during lockdown
  • Grieving for a lost family member or friend
  • Safety in the work place (such as social distancing and PPE measures)
  • A need to shield (either for themselves or for others in their household)
  • Loss of confidence in capability due to a long absence away

You should also be prepared for non COVID-19 related concerns such as a break down in a working relationship prior to lockdown

  • Tip 3 – Be prepared that more than one meeting or call is needed.  Some individuals need time to reflect on what is really concerning them, solutions proposed or to come up with alternatives.  You may also need some time to rethink solutions so having a follow up meeting or call before finalising any agreement is often beneficial.  Also be prepared to break the potential solution down into smaller pieces and once they accept one, review and agree the next step.
  • Tip 4 – Ask them for solutions that could work.  As with any performance conversation, there is more buy-in from the employee if solutions are suggested by them.  If the suggestion is workable (even if not perfect) then it may be worth trying initially.

Step 3 – Possible solutions and reasonable adjustments

Whilst there are likely to be a number of options available and you should be guided by the employee, some of the below (in isolation or in combination) are a good place to start:

  • Phased return (using annual leave and reduced working hours)
  • Amending working patterns to avoid busy commuting times
  • Combining working remotely and being in the workplace
  • Increased frequency of wellbeing check ins
  • Phased introduction to tasks (starting with a lighter workload to ease the individual in gently)
  • Ensuring they work with the same person every time they are in the workplace (achieved by agreeing team splits or defining work areas to set individuals)

Step 4 – Follow up

Follow up any conversation in writing to summarise your understanding of the conversation and anything agreed (such as solutions and how/when this might be reviewed) is good practice and also gives the individual the opportunity to confirm or correct your account.  This method also has the additional advantage that, should you need to, you can refer to this summary in later conversations.

Today is going to be a good day coffee cup

How to stay positive for your family and your team

How to stay positive for your family and your team (even if you are scared and worried too)

Do you run a business where you’re responsible for your employees’ wellbeing? Do you manage a team at work? Do you have children or vulnerable family members who depend on you?

Whether you said to yes to just one or all of the above, having people depend on you, especially during such a difficult time as now, can quickly lead to burnout. If this happens, who will you be able to help then?

To help you stay strong so that you can be there for others during this time, here is how to stay positive even if you’re scared and worried too.

3 steps for staying positive

Step 1: Deal with your fear and anxiety first

You need to let go of the negative feelings draining your energy first before you’re able to feel positive and expend this energy for others. Here are a few ways that you can do that:

  • Seek community and support by talking to friends and family or joining a support group online.
  • Get your news and facts from reputable resources but limit your exposure to news and social media.
  • Plan your daily routine and stick to it to maintain a sense of structure and normality.
  • Prioritise your own self-care and practice mindfulness activities such as yoga and meditation.

Step 2: Train your brain to think positively 

Our brains are wired to protect us, therefore sensing ‘threats’ and thinking ‘negatively’ are often a reflex response. To overcome this, you need to train your mind to think differently. Here are a few ways that you can do that:

  • Believe a positive attitude is a choice and start to focus on positive thoughts.
  • Rid your life of negativity by limiting your exposure to the news and people who think negatively.
  • Practice positivity every day by writing down things that you are grateful for.
  • Look for positivity to reinforce it in your life. You can do this by re-framing things that happen in a positive way (e.g. finding the silver lining).

Step 3: Share this positivity with others 

Only when you let go of negative feelings that are a drain on your energy can you be there for others. Here are some of the best ways you can help others:

  • Check-in regularly and really listen to them.
  • Be empathetic and share what works for you.
  • Help them to be more positive in their lives too.
  • Spread kindness as much as possible and show your appreciation for people with words and gestures.
Lady with laptop

Are my team actually working?

Are your team actually working?

With the phased reopening of businesses over the new few weeks to months, many businesses are having to carry on with operating remotely. This means that many employers are faced with the challenge of managing and monitoring their employees who are working from home. It can be extremely challenging to keep track of remote workers, never mind their productivity, so here are our top tips (including software and tools) that you can use to do this effectively.

7 essential tips for monitoring employee performance

  1. Use communication apps like Zoom and Slack – video conferencing software and instant messaging apps can ensure quick and effective communication for everyone.

video call

2. Assign deadlines to tasks – placing a time frame on a task increases motivation. Just make sure that these deadlines are realistic.

3. Check team activity regularly to manage projects – use project management software such as, Mavenlink or Trello. These enable you to check progress and manage multiple projects efficiently.


4. Track the time spent on the internet – apps such as TimeDoctor will allow you to gain valuable insight into productivity vs procrastination based on the websites that your employee visits throughout the day.

5. Monitor when employees are actually working – track how much time your employees are working and how much time they are idle or away from their keyboard. Tools like Hubstaff do this by running in the background to monitor keyboard and mouse activity.

team in circle
Hands together

6. Supervise employees remotely – remote employee monitoring software (TimeDoctor, Hubstaff etc) allow you to gain insights into productivity as they take screenshots at fixed time intervals (e.g. every 5 minutes).

7. Get everyone to send you an end-of-day summary report – an end-of-day report not only allows you to see whether your employees are spending the appropriate amount of time on tasks that you set, but they also show your employees what they’ve achieved every day too.

Find the programmes that work best for you and your team

Using these tips and software recommendations will allow you to effectively manage your employees while they work from home for the next few weeks and months. To do so doesn’t involve micro-management, but rather engagement and accountability. That’s what communication tools, project management apps, and time-tracking software are for. If you can find the best ones that work for you and your team, then remote working will soon become as productive as working in the office.

Ballet dancers


Flexible Furloughing

From 1 July 2020, Businesses will have the flexibility to bring previously furloughed employees back to work part-time – with the government continuing to pay 80% of wages for any of their normal hours they do not work up until the end of August.

Businesses can decide the hours and shift patterns that their employees will work on their return and you will be responsible for paying their wages in full while working. This means that employees can work as much or as little as your business needs, with no minimum time that you can furlough staff for.

Any working hours arrangement that you agree with your employee must cover at least one week and be confirmed to the employee in writing.

When claiming the CJRS grant for furloughed hours, you will report and claim for a minimum period of a week. Businesses can choose to make claims for longer periods such as on monthly or two weekly cycles if this is more appropriate.

You will be required to submit data on the usual hours an employee would be expected to work in a claim period and actual hours worked. We can assist and make the claims for you.

If your employees are unable to return to work, or you do not have work for them to do, they can remain on furlough and you can continue to claim the grant for their full hours under the existing rules.

Employer contributions

From August, the government grant will be tapered as follows:

  • For June and July, the government will pay 80% of wages up to a cap of £2,500 as well as employer National Insurance (ER’s NICs) and pension contributions for the hours the employee does not work – employers will have to pay employees for the hours they work.
  • In August, the government will continue to pay 80% of wages up to a cap of £2,500 but employers will pay ER’s NIC’s and pension contributions.
  • From 1 September, the government will pay 70% of wages up to a cap of £2,187.50 for the hours the employee does not work – employers will pay ER NICs, pension contributions and 10% of wages to make up 80% of the total up to a cap of £2,500
  • For the final month of the scheme in October, the government will pay 60% of wages up to a cap of £1,875 for the hours the employee does not work – employers will pay ER NICs, pension contributions and 20% of wages to make up 80% of the total up to a cap of £2,500
  • the cap on the furlough grant will be proportional to the hours not worked.

Important dates

It is important to note that the scheme will close to new entrants from 30 June. From this point onwards, you will only be able to furlough employees that you have furloughed for a full three-week period prior to 30 June.

This means that the final date that you can furlough an employee for the first time will be 10 June for the current three-week furlough period to be completed by 30 June. Employers will have until 31 July to make any claims in respect of the period to 30 June.

Guidance and support

Further support on how to calculate claims with the extra flexibility will be available by 12 June and we will keep you informed about the detail and your written requirements in due course. If you have any questions please contact us.