You can’t expect to successfully run a remote accounting team without giving it proper thought.
A team that works in the office 100% of the time is certainly a thing of the past, and distributed and hybrid teams require different infrastructure to operate effectively.
These team members require more than just a laptop and a free Zoom license. If you expect them to be productive and happy remote workers, then you need to set them up correctly.
And this doesn’t just mean providing them with the fanciest desk chair for their home office. Sure, they need the physical tools to create a comfortable workspace, but they also need the right software solutions to enable them to seamlessly deliver client work. Not only that, but they need the supportive tools from you and/ or your management team.
Here is the essential infrastructure you need to provide your remote team members to set them up for success:
Physical infrastructure relates to your employees’ physical surroundings—their remote workspace, their desk, their chair, etc.
At a minimum, your staff need a safe and comfortable:
Mouse and keyboard
While it might not be feasible for your firm to provide all of these items, you should, at least, provide your remote team members with a laptop, screen, mouse and keyboard.
Some firms go so far as to provide staff with an allowance to purchase any other physical items they need to do their job comfortably and well.
There’s no use in having the physical infrastructure if you don’t have the tech tools that enable your team to deliver work, communicate with clients and collaborate with colleagues.
In remote teams, it’s not as simple as walking to a colleague’s desk or catching them in the lunchroom. Consider the following solutions to address your remote team’s communication needs:
Instant chat communication
Workshopping ideas and strategies is a whole different ball game when working remotely. Without the ability to come together in a boardroom and write ideas on a whiteboard, you’ll need other solutions that emulate this experience as best as possible.
These tools help keep your team members organized day-to-day, and keep their work-life balance in-check.
Online booking tools like Calendly help to remove the manual processes traditionally involved in setting up meetings. With these solutions, you no longer need to email back and forth to secure a date and time—simply have your clients book meetings directly in your employees’ calendars.
Cloud document storage is critical to a well-functioning remote accounting business. Your employees should be able to easily find, edit, download and upload documents. Consider moving all your documentation to the cloud via solutions like Dropbox, Google Drive, ShareFile and OneDrive.
A practice management and workflow tool is the heart of a well-oiled accounting business.
The right solution will take your work, tasks and projects and organize them so they can be set up, actioned and tracked.
You can manage workflows in spreadsheets, which are complex and limited, or you can use actual workflow management tools, which use automation to take care of the manual tasks like updating statuses and work assignments. Better yet, you can use workflow management tools designed specifically for accounting practices, like Karbon.
On top of managing accounting workflows, Karbon integrates with your email and brings it directly into your workflow for everyone—clients and colleagues—to contribute to.
Essentially, Karbon can act as the foundation for any distributed team to work together effectively.
With such an increase in remote work, information security has never been more important. And with the sensitive information your accounting firm is managing daily, it’s critical that you have the appropriate tools in-place to keep client data secure.
“It horrifies me how many accounting practices around the world are still run on Windows servers that act, more or less, as an open invitation to the outside world.”
Tools like Okta act as a secure front door through which you can access the rest of your applications. These tools unify your firm’s apps, ensuring the right people have the access to the right tools, while providing additional security layers that keep remote teams safe and secure.
Password managers like 1Password make it easy to create and store strong passwords without ever needing to remember them or write them down. These tools help keep the most basic IT security function—the password—safe.
The most overlooked infrastructure you need to provide to your remote accounting team is your support. Working remotely can be an isolating experience, especially for those who were plunged into this completely new way of operating without much notice.
As a practice leader or owner, the most important thing you can personally provide is your support, help and confidence.
Consider the following supportive and culture-strengthening ideas:
Daily or weekly check-ins with your team members to touch base about both work progress and how they’re managing at a personal level.
Recurring non-work related Zoom calls to replace those ‘water cooler’ chats.
Get-to-know-you sessions using tools like Donut that randomly select and connect colleagues, encouraging them to book a call to introduce themselves and/ or catch up.
Whole team meetings with cameras on to make sure your team are having that, albeit indirect, connection with the company as a whole.
A happy team is a productive team, no matter where they’re set up.
As your accounting firm’s leader, it’s your responsibility to ensure each team member has the tools, systems and support in-place that enable them to do their job well.
At the end of the day, your staff and your clients will thank you.