In recent years, many accounting firms have realized the practical benefits of remote work policies. Allowing for remote working means it doesn't matter where in the world an employee is, makes lost hours spent commuting a thing of the past, and expands the pool of potential hires.
Thanks to advancements in technology (lead by the movement to the cloud) it has never been easier to have remote employees and many practices are taking advantage of that.
But there are still others that aren't giving it serious consideration. There are a host of arguments used by partners and managers who aren't open to the idea of implementing a remote work policy at their firm—almost all of which don't hold water. These are three of the most common.
People can't be trusted to be productive at home
Managers worry that there are more distractions at home than in the office. How is an employee going to get their work done when they could just as easily surf the net or waste time on social media? The simple solution is to make sure they find the work interesting and fulfilling. The truth is there is nothing stopping your staff from indulging in similar distractions at their desk as well—coming into the office does not guarantee productivity.
The other half of this argument is rooted in a lack of trust. If you can't trust your staff to get their job done without you looking over their shoulder, then you've hired poorly. It's not your job to be their babysitter. The right staff who have a passion for their work can, and will, get their work done from anywhere.
Ultimately it comes back down to your recruitment. If you're not recruiting people who you trust, I don't know why you'd really recruit them into your team.
I won't know what they're working on
There's a fear that if you can't see your staff, you won't know what they are working on. The perfect solution to this is cloud-based software that will allow you to keep your team’s tasks and client communication in one place, have visibility on where things stand and show you what work everyone in your practice is currently completing.
Right now the technology available to accounting firms means that there is no excuse for not knowing what your staff are currently working on, no matter where in the world they are. Every firm should have systems in place to provide complete visibility across the company, allowing everyone to know who is doing what, when, and with who. Watching the back of their head while they do it is unnecessary.
Our company culture will die
There are managers who worry that if their staff don't see each other every day, the firm's culture will suffer for it. Company culture is about the actions you take and the trust and values you share. It's about how you treat your clients and each other. Proximity isn't necessary to make this strong. With the right systems in place to collaborate and communicate as a team, you may actually find your staff talking to one another more than if they were in the same building.
When you need to get the team together, it is remarkably easy to replicate a face-to-face team meeting from anywhere in the world. There is a whole range of online tools that make this easy such as Gotomeeting, Zoom or Skype. On those rare occasions (perhaps a couple of times a year) when this won't suffice, you can always call everyone in for a face-to-face meeting.
With advancements in technology, it's never been easier to communicate and collaborate with your team from anywhere at any time. The only real obstacle stopping remote working from being widely adopted in the accounting industry is an antiquated view of it. It's time to let go of old ways and embrace the possibilities now afforded to you and your staff.
To compare the challenges your firm is facing acquiring, training and retaining staff with accounting practices from around the world, download The talent challenge: insights from Karbon’s 2017 talent survey.