Glenwood professional service providers adapting to new work-from-home requirements
Glenwood Springs-area professional service providers were just two days into adapting workplace environments to cut in-office staff by half when the “stay-at-home” order came from the state health officials last week.
Delivering client services through it all has been a challenge, as businesses such as real estate agencies, business accounting and payroll, and law firms have been adjusting day-to-day with the ever-changing state public health orders to try to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
The latest directive, issued late in the day March 25, asked “non-essential” businesses — including many professional services not related to banking and finance — to close physical workplaces and have employees work from home as much as possible.
The timing couldn’t have been worse for accountants and tax preparers, who were in the middle of tax season when the pandemic hit Colorado and the notion of “social distancing” was introduced as a way to control it.
Federal and state income tax filing deadlines have been extended until July 15 — instead of the usual April 15 deadline.
Still, clients have a lot of questions, and perhaps even more so with the financial uncertainty, said Chris West, CEO of Dalby, Wendland and Co. CPAs, which has offices in Glenwood Springs, Rifle and Aspen.
The firm normally has 28 employees working out of its Glenwood office, and 40 at the main offices in Grand Junction. Staff is now working at home, but maintaining client contacts remotely, he said.
“We do still have some critical functions that have to be done in-office, so we have some people in and out,” West said, noting that accounting and payroll services are considered “critical” services under the state order.
“Everyone has the ability to work from home, and we have policies for any circumstances where someone would need to be in the office,” he said. “We did have a little bit of foresight before the latest government announcements, and had a plan.”
It did mean getting the technology in place for people to communicate with clients and coworkers from home. Again, much of that was already in the works as the professional service industry is always improving technology, he said.
“The main thing we want to do is make sure our business is in a position to be able to help clients, many of whom are in bad need of some advice right now,” West said.
Integrated Mountain Properties, which provides real estate sales and property management services out of its downtown Glenwood Springs office, has made similar adjustments.
Under normal circumstances, there can be between 15-20 people in and out of the office in a day.
Given the nature of the real estate business, though, it’s a rather mobile work environment, and a lot of the staff is able to work from home even in normal times, Bob Johnson, founder and executive vice president for Integrated, said.
Even before the new orders came down from the state, “We encouraged the team to work remotely whenever possible,” he said.
On the property and homeowner association management side, “We created remote meeting guidelines that have been effective and supported by the communities we manage.”
At the Balcomb and Green Law Offices in Glenwood Springs, where there are usually 16 in-office staff, plans were made before last week to move to a complete remote office environment if need be, law firm partner Chris Geiger said.
“Like most businesses, we have been closely monitoring the federal and state guidelines and making sure we are taking the proper steps for the safety of our clients and employees,” he said. “We’ve also been keeping an eye out for any new developments in the law, and how that might affect our clients in how they operate their businesses.
“We are somewhat fortunate in that we work in an information business, and we regularly communicate electronically with clients and among staff, so our ability to represent clients is not impaired,” Geiger added.
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Several Carbondale businesses are scrambling to relocate and others are just plain calling it quits following plans for one of the town’s oldest strip malls to be redeveloped.