COVID-19 has negatively impacted how auditors work

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Audit process can suffer because of physical dispersion of team members

By Media Relations

Picture of TIm Bauer

COVID-19 has disrupted financial statement auditing globally and impacted group dynamics in an industry vital to the health of the economy, according to a new study.

Pre-pandemic, core audit teams traditionally worked together on-site at the client's workplace, often sharing a meeting space as the team's basecamp—increasing team trust, identity, and potentially effectiveness. The pandemic made working from home a necessity at times, but it also led to the widespread adoption of virtual meeting platforms like Zoom, which meant teams no longer needed to be together physically to do their work.

The researchers contend that based on prior research, coaching and the review process of an audit begin to break down when there is less trust and more distance between a coach and junior or between a reviewer and preparer. They also note it is unclear whether a virtual meeting can sustain a sense of connection.

"When team members trust each other less, they don't share knowledge as much, or they don't truly work together, and ultimately that can lead to time and cost over-runs or negatively impact work quality," said Tim Bauer, one of the study's authors and a professor in assurance at the University of Waterloo. "So for a business, audit or otherwise, the question is how will you build that trust or identity within a work team if your members are mostly interacting through screens and are 'out of sight out of mind' as soon as Zoom is turned off?"