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2020: The year of embracing change

Chair's Message

Ben Ellingson, CPA, CGMA | August 2020 Footnote

Editor's note: Updated July 28, 2020

You’ve heard it said over and over that we’re living in “unprecedented times.” We all experienced change recently and, while we can understand many of the reasons behind it, that doesn’t always mean it’s easy. The unfamiliar is scary and often uncomfortable, especially at first. But I’ve also heard positive comments from people learning how to operate differently.

On March 17, our firm moved to a remote working environment as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic. While my makeshift office in the basement of our house looks very different from my usual standup desk and row of monitors, I, along with everyone else, have found a groove that allows us to continue focusing on serving clients while also doing what we can to protect the health and wellbeing of all.

Our meetings, typically held in conference rooms and restaurants, were converted to phone calls and online platforms. Email exchanges and portals have largely replaced site visits and printed materials. And, before this year, the idea of closing our office in the peak of the traditional busy season would have gotten a laugh at best. This year, however, that impossibility became reality. The April 15 deadline came and went, and even with working from home, shifting deadlines, virtual celebrations, ever-changing rules and new regulations, we all survived and continue to forge ahead — with the unexpected silver linings of learning new ways to work, stay connected, and trust and support each other.

Aside from the impact to our work days, many of us experienced (and still are experiencing) the disappointment of delayed celebrations, canceled vacations and other events that typically are highlights of our year. Commuting, lunches, happy hours and a separation between our office and our homes have also become a distant memory, and it can be very hard to know when you are “at work” or “at home.” A positive byproduct of this change, however, is that it highlights the importance of taking a break — something many of us may not have been the best at in the past. Learning to step away, disconnect, and take a day off is vital to our mental health, and while it may not be easy to shut off our computers or set down our phones, we should remind ourselves that it’s worth it to come back recharged and better equipped to focus.

With offices in various stages of reopening, we know that we haven’t seen the end of the changes. With a new emphasis on sanitation, personal safety, hygiene measures and continued social distancing, office environments, like most environments, will look different in the foreseeable future.

But through all this, I’m confident we will continue to find benefits in these changes as well. These new hurdles provide great opportunities to continue to think outside the box, develop new daily processes, and grow in different and unexpected ways. With an open mind and a willingness to embrace change, we will all continue to stay connected, stay productive and stay safe!

Ben Ellingson, CPA, CGMA
Chair, MNCPA board of directors