While the effects of the pandemic are far from over, the deployment of vaccines and improved treatments gives us hope that there is finally a light at the end of the tunnel. When positivity rates begin to decline and social distancing restrictions ease, many businesses will be returning to a pre-pandemic traditional office setting. During this transition, it will be crucial for business leaders and management teams to establish and maintain systems that promote a strong and effective internal control environment.
Here are three points to consider before, during, and after this period:
Many of us are working remotely and using digital methods for document processing and approvals. That’s why it is more important than ever to use all available security procedures in order to maintain preventative and oversight controls for key transaction cycles. These include features as simple as minimum password compliance or for companies with increasing complexities requiring employees in charge of IT to monitor system activity and potential outside interference. This also allows for additional security over devices utilized in the field for job cost updates and timesheet input for payroll. Many of these features could be unfamiliar to your employees, which means additional training may be necessary to ensure a team-wide compliance, and understanding of the importance of reinforcing your control environment.
As the transition back to work happens, be mindful to adapt the new controls and processes back to the original ones that were in place pre-COVID. Alternatively, consider updating your former policies for improved approaches developed over the pandemic, and modify any internal guidelines to meet your needs of the transition period over the upcoming months.
Reflect upon your transition period for improvements. The continued risk of employees at their homes or remote locations leads to a risk of “out of sight, out of mind” and hazards of bypassing internal control policies. During this period, it is important for management to not only review the current policies, but also continue to monitor day-to-day practices to better the control environment. For the employees involved in performing daily tasks, such as bank reconciliations, job cost approvals, payroll processing, cash receipts and cash disbursements, adhering to the stipulated policies will reduce the risk of errors or fraud in transaction processing.
Business owners have a multitude of items on their mind in a normal world, much less one during COVID. Maintaining controls that fit the current environment’s needs can help keep the integral functions of the business running during these turbulent times. And once we emerge from this crisis (and we will), business owners will be in an ideal position to take advantage of the new opportunities that are waiting just around the corner.