How to Maintain Relationships and Efficient Work During the Pandemic

Kevin R. Manalo is a secondee to the Osaka office of Grant Thornton Japan, one of the country’s leading assurance, tax, and business advisory companies. Here, he shares his experience working from home as an auditor and gives us tips on how to work optimally in the new normal. With a month left in 2020, most of us are still working from home to reduce the spread of Covid-19. As auditors, this poses as a huge challenge due to the increased risk of fraud that can arise when relying so heavily on digital operations. Among the many things we have been doing remotely are:

  • Audits
  • Observing stocktaking
  • Testing internal controls

All of these are being done from the comfort of our homes, which has been a blessing in disguise. Some of us have been able to spend more time with family. Others have had more time to pursue hobbies and interests.

Stay Engaged

While this extra time at home has benefits, we need to make sure that we are able to carry out our duties and responsibilities at work.

As a manager or supervisor, how can you ensure that staff remain effective and efficient? One way is to maintain regular communication. I’m not saying that you need to check on people every hour or every day. Judgment and understanding of your staff determine the frequency of communication. Our goal is not only to check if duties and responsibilities are being performed but also to know the status and condition of the staff.

I personally have experienced this. As a secondee to the Osaka office of Grant Thornton Japan, I have been living alone—apart from my family—for about two years. In addition, due to the pandemic, interaction with my colleagues has been significantly reduced.

Although I have already made local friends to whom I can turn, it is comforting to know that the boss is concerned with my well-being. Other secondees and I have a weekly online meeting with our boss. He normally asks if there are any concerns and how we are doing with our assigned tasks and Japanese language study. This allows him to establish rapport with us and ensures that things are getting done.

There are various ways to do this. Instead of relying solely on email, have online meetings. If you want a more consecutive approach, the good old phone call is also okay. And, if you happen to be at the office at the same time as your staff, suggest having lunch or dinner together—while observing appropriate precautions, of course.

External Affairs

Maintaining good communication is not only an internal task; you must also reach out to business partners, such as clients, suppliers, creditors, and debtors.

Since it is still difficult to meet in person, we should improve other methods of communication. Suggestions include:

  • Always check your email for unread messages
  • Make sure you reply promptly
  • Don’t let email go unanswered for more than a day
  • Keep it short and get straight to the point
  • Read what you’ve written before sending
  • After sending an important email, call the recipient

These are only suggestions—everyone is different, and you might already have your own approach. For me, I try to make sure that I follow these rules every day. As the great Irish playwright and political activist George Bernard Shaw said, “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”

Kevin R. Manalo is secondee to the Osaka office of Grant Thornton Japan. He previously worked at Punongbayan & Araullo GT in the Philippines, where he was involved in financial statements audits for real estate and construction, retail, leasing operations, securities, business process outsourcing, manufacturing, trading, and non-profit organizations. For more information, please contact  Grant Thornton representative by email at:

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