With the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, working from home is no longer an option. It is compulsory across the U.S. I am not an exception. I work as a junior staff accountant by a property management company in Irvine, California. My company started asking its employees to work from home at the end of March 2020, following the stay at home order from the Governor of California. The order was issued in an effort to stop the spread of coronavirus. Two months later, I am still working from home in isolation from other people. I enjoyed this work-from-home thing at the start. However, as time went by, the feeling of loneliness grew bigger and more prominent in my mind. I missed my interactions with other colleagues in the office. Regardless of my feelings, I still need to carry out my job and duties daily. To ensure that I can work excellently, I follow a fixed schedule on my workdays. My intention for this post is to share with you some brief overviews and insights into a typical day of a quarantined accountant.
Every day, I woke up at 6:30 am to do personal hygiene. I only have two meals a day, so I usually skip breakfasts. I start working at 7 am. I am provided with access to the Citrix Workspace app. This app allows me to control my work computer from my laptop. I open the Citrix app, enter my credentials, and my work computer’s screen appears in front of me. At work, I am provided with two widescreen monitors. However, at home working as a quarantined accountant, I only have my laptop with a much small screen to work with. It is harder for me to do my job with only one small screen. Still, I can get used to it.
Before I start working, the first thing I do is opening the Outlook app to check my emails. I usually spend around fifteen to twenty minutes on checking my inbox. I have been working for three different companies so far. All of them use Outlook as the main email app. I have grown accustomed to this app to a point where I do not think I would be able to work without it. In fact, Outlook, along with Excel and accounting software programs (Dynamics GP, Yardi, Sage), are three apps that I use day-to-day. Outlook lets me create folders and rules to organize my emails automatically. For me, I create an inbox folder for each person with whom I communicate the most. For instance, I create one rule and one folder for my supervisor’s emails. All emails that my supervisor sends to me will automatically go to that particular folder. Every morning when I check my inbox, I normally check this folder first to see if my supervisor assigns me any tasks to do.
After checking my emails, if there are any urgent tasks, I will take care of those tasks first. For my current job, urgent tasks are generally related to bank activities or audit requests. If there is no urgent task, I will carry out my normal work routine, which begins with checking cash balance. I am assigned a portfolio of over thirty apartment communities. I am responsible for all accounting related matters of those sites, ranging from bookkeeping to producing financial statements. The first thing that I do every day is to make sure all my communities have enough cash for their daily operations. If any of my apartment sites have a low cash balance, I will need to set up a wire transfer to fund that community.
My schedule as a quarantined accountant does not change much. When I am done with checking cash balance, what I do next depends on the time of the month. If it is the beginning of the month, I do month-end closings for the prior month. If it is in the middle of the month, I perform reconciliations for balance sheet accounts. Finally, if the time is near the end of the month, I review rent reports, delinquency reports, and security deposit reports. For month-end closings, my major assignments are booking monthly journal entries, reviewing general ledgers, and creating financial statements. On average, I can complete month-end closings for three properties in one day. I have over thirty properties in my portfolio, so it takes me about ten days to finish them all. By the time I am done with month-end closings for all my properties, it is the middle of the month, which means that I need to start working on the reconciliation tasks.
There are two balance sheet accounts that must be reconciled monthly. They are cash account and resident refund account. For cash account reconciliations, also known as bank reconciliations, it must be done to ensure that cash balances in the accounting system agree with bank balances. If there is any variance, it is my job to figure out why. The variances are mostly due to timing differences. It means the times when transactions are posted in the accounting system are different from the times of transactions posted by the bank. If this is the case, all I need to do is making notes. If a variance is not a timing difference, I usually contact on-site managers or accounts payable department to work with them on solving the variance. For resident refund account reconciliations, my task is to verify that on-site managers properly complete security deposit dispositions and that accounts payable team process refunds for past residents timely and correctly. As you could have guessed, when I finish my reconciliation tasks, it is almost the end of the month. I must start reviewing different reports to prepare for the next month-end closings. As can be seen, the life of an accountant is like a cycle, which repeats itself and never ends. This life gets worse as I am working from home as a quarantined accountant.
Going back to my work schedule, typically, I take thirty-minute lunch breaks. Because I start working at 7 am, I can get off work at around 3:30 pm. It does not matter when I start working. As long as I work for eight hours a day, I am good. I rarely work overtime. This is especially true as I am working as a quarantined accountant. Furthermore, my company has a strict policy regarding working overtime. Technically, I need to get approvals from my supervisor to work overtime. For accountants (and quarantined accountants), the busiest times are when they do month-end and year-end closings. If one needs to work overtime, it has to be for the closings.
It is pretty much it for a typical day of my accounting life as a quarantined accountant, with or without the coronavirus. There is nothing fancy about it. Practically, I do the same things repeatedly every month. If you like working with numbers and doing repetitive tasks all day, accounting is definitely for you.