Sleep is as close to a panacea as we are likely to get in our lifetimes: it helps us recover from injuries and illness, plays a vital role in memory formation, and helps keep us healthy. Disrupting our sleep has an adverse impact on nearly every system in our bodies. So it’s perhaps not surprising that a recent study by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that unemployment disrupts sleep, along with other negative impacts on health and well-being. Even if you’re not unemployed, the pandemic has been stressful enough that many people are experiencing ‘coronasomnia.’ In this article, a Harvard Business Review editor describes her experiments with four different tactics to get better sleep. The one that worked best for her was setting aside all electronics and avoiding all screens for two hours before bedtime.
These have been unusual times that are impacting nearly everyone on the planet. We hope that you are finding ways to make this a time not just for survival but for growth as well!
A bipartisan committee – the Problem Solvers Caucus – put together a stimulus plan last week that has Trump’s support, but not the support of leaders of either party. Included in the plan is another round of $1,200 stimulus payments. However, with the nation’s focus on the recent death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, it’s not likely any progress will be made on hammering out a new deal.
Without an additional stimulus package, many small businesses face a bleak future. The funds from the PPP and the stimulus payments have largely been spent, and cooler weather will make outdoor options more difficult. Small independent businesses have fewer resources, so the face of Main Street may change to favor large national chains. Some small businesses may simply cease operations, while others may be acquired by larger ones.
With many employees working remotely, state tax issues may pop up for many small businesses. In some states, payroll expenses for an employee working for an out-of-state company can trigger income tax and sales tax issues for the company, and multi-state income tax issues for the employee. While some states have released guidance providing relief for employees who relocated due to COVID-19, not all have. States that have issued guidance include Alabama, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Jersey, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, and Washington, D.C.
We accountants categorize these as sales tax, payroll tax and/or business tax NEXUS, and I am glad to say that I have relationships with several attorneys who specialize in these issues who have been so gracious with their time and advice. If your business has employees working remotely in new states, please feel free to contact our office so we can put you in touch with the right professional to help you understand the possible impact.
As a reminder, those of you did not meet the July 15th deadline this year and submitted an extension, you are still required to file by the extended due date of October 15th. Please remember that if you are planning to contribute to your SEP/IRA that deadline is also October 15th.
If you filed your 2016 personal income tax return by the extended due date and that return included of Additional Medicare Tax and/or Net Investment Income Tax liabilities as indicated on forms 8959 and/or 8960, October 15th is the last day to file a protective claim for refund should the United States Supreme Court, California, et al., Petitioners v. Texas, et al., No. 19-840 case overturn the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (“ACA”) provision.
WORKING FROM HOME
Without the structure of a commute to bookend the workday and informal breaks at the coffee maker or water cooler, working from home may mean you’re not taking as many mental breaks as you need. Consciously taking breaks during the day and prioritizing activities that help you regenerate can help you recharge, avoid burnout and keep your sanity. For example, starting your day by walking, biking, stretching, reading, or savoring a cup of coffee rather than diving into your email immediately can give you “a sense of perspective that there is a world outside of your job.”
LIVING WITH AND AFTER THE PANDEMIC
As we enter flu season, how can you tell if you have a cold or the flu or if it’s COVID-19? This article in the Wall Street Journal outlines the key differences. For example, the fever caused by COVID-19 may not rise much above 100.4 degrees, but it can make you feel much worse than a similar fever caused by the flu. Shortness of breath, continued fever, and pneumonia indicate COVID-19 while nasal congestion is more likely with a cold or the flu. Wet coughs indicate a cold while dry coughs accompanied by a loss of taste or smell are signs of COVID-19. My personal favorite test: the smell test which I conduct daily in my garden. I know I am fine, as smell the herbs as I pick some mint, thyme, sage or basil for my tea or lunch!
Work in the post-pandemic world
Zoom, Slack, Google Docs, and other online tools make collaboration between far-flung colleagues easy. But too much collaboration leaves team members unfocused, stretched and susceptible to burnout. One solution is to limit the projects that require input and collaboration from the whole team, as described in this article on Fast Company. Some projects do require input from everyone, but most can be more successfully managed by a smaller team. Assessing the need for whole-team collaboration versus small group responsibility can help teams focus on the right priorities.
With much of the workforce out of the office, many companies are using this time as an opportunity to redesign the workplace to make it an inviting place for employees to return to. Some are replacing open offices with dynamic spaces that can be easily reconfigured to suit a team’s needs. These spaces may include small offices for deep work, tables or groups of desks for teams who want to work together, and casual, café-style seating. Other companies are exploring replacing large central offices with small satellite offices closer to where their employees live.
I am happy to say that our space is now luxurious as Monica, Myriam and Elizabeth are now totally remote and Raquel, Ramona and I are working staggered days.
Back to school
The last few weeks have been very stressful for parents of school age children. As we settle in for what may be a long stint of remote learning, parents will need to find ways to make remote school work for their kids. Assessing the school’s plans and the school’s ability to manage those plans, alongside your own family’s situation is the first step. Besides acquiring academic skills, an important function of schools is teaching social skills, which is harder to do on Zoom. Reading to your children and discussing their schoolwork can help. Another suggestion is to form a pandemic bubble with several other families with children of the same age.