Best practices for working remotely (from a virtual accounting firm)

Zach MontroyPeople, Team and Organizational Strategist, Summit CPA Group

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses everywhere are transitioning to a completely remote work environment. Many employees are working remotely for the first time. And this sudden transition, paired with the news and the impact of the coronavirus, can cause anyone’s stress and anxiety levels to skyrocket.

As a completely virtual firm, Summit CPA Group operates within a distributed model, which means that our entire team regularly works from home. After working remotely for several years, we have come to understand the ins and outs of working from home. These insights include being knowledgeable of employee “must-haves” and logistics that aid in our productivity and success as a firm.

Highlighted below are a few of the best practices we’ve come up with to help enhance your experience working from home, and making this transition as smooth as possible.

Have the right equipment and software

If you are responsible for gathering and maintaining equipment for your home office, it’s crucial that you try to obtain the following resources.

Fast and reliable internet

A speedy and stable internet connection is a necessity for working at home. Before working remotely, it may be easy to dismiss sticky internet connections that occasionally drop out. However, any connection or speed issues will only grow in size as you work from home full-time.

It’s imperative that you have an internet connection that will support all the functions you need to work remotely.

Appropriate software

Since you will no longer be working in a physical office environment, face-to-face communication will most likely take place over video chat. Therefore, you will need to download the telecommunication software your company has selected if you have not already done so.

The essentials include a video conferencing solution (eg. Zoom or GoToMeeting), messaging service (Slack or Microsoft Teams) and a work collaboration tool (eg. Karbon).

Easy access to relevant files

Since you will be away from your desk at work, it’s vital that you ensure that you can access any documents available on your office computer through your computer at home.

We recommend contacting your manager or IT department about accessing these documents from a remote location, as you may need to follow specific procedures to gain access. These procedures may include downloading specific software or logging into a portal using information assigned to you.

Find or create your ideal workspace

Creating a work environment that will foster productivity and garner great results is also a crucial component of successfully transitioning into a full-time, remote employee. With that said, we recommend doing the following.

Know what works best for you

Everyone works differently, and it’s imperative that you figure out where you work best within your home, given your job responsibilities.

For example, many people work well in a room with a door where they can be alone and also close the door as needed during periods of deep work or for meetings. Meanwhile, employees who engage in light research or creative writing may find that they perform their best while sitting on their family room couch. While either option is fine, it’s important that you’re honest about where you are (and are not) capable of producing your best work.

Choose furniture and supplies that will enable your productivity

Electing to invest in office furniture and supplies like an ergonomic chair or a laptop stand for your desk can significantly benefit your productivity by giving you the capacity to work for extended periods at your chosen workspace.

We recommend checking in with your employer to see if their current workers’ compensation policy will allow them to reimburse you for any office equipment or supplies you purchase.

Try to track your time diligently

Having employees track the time they spend working while at home is often required by companies. Non-exempt employees are most likely accustomed to tracking their time since they work for an hourly wage. However, for exempt employees who are new to tracking the time they spend working, we strongly suggest doing the following.

Use the time-tracker your company has chosen

If your company requires that you track your time, then make sure you’re accurately using the tracker that they have chosen. Doing so will help them get an understanding of how much you’re working, how much you’re able to work, and even whether adjustments need to be made to your schedule. Tracking time can also help you get a better idea of how much time you actually spend working daily, thereby allowing you to adjust your work habits as needed.

Familiarize yourself with how time is tracked at your company.

When it comes to tracking time, your company may want you to log your time in a specific way. For example, if you’re a consultant, your firm may request that, along with recording how much time you spend working, you also detail what client work you’re working on so that they can bill clients accordingly. Therefore, try to pay close attention to any guidelines your company has provided regarding tracking time and follow them accordingly.

Transitioning to a remote work environment can be a stressful experience, especially during these troubling times. However, following the tips listed here can help make your transition easier and set you up for a more pleasant remote working experience.

Zach Montroy
People, Team and Organizational Strategist, Summit CPA Group

Summit CPA Group is a fully distributed accounting firm. In addition to being the leading provider of Virtual CFO Services, they also perform 401(k) Audits and CPA Firm coaching. Summit CPA Group fully understands the accounting, bookkeeping, cash flow management, and business tax nuances that come with being distributed, and loves helping clients overcome these challenges through their own experience and expertise.

Zach leads recruiting, hiring team coaching, development and people strategy. He utilizes innovative and strategic solutions to help organizations align mission, values, uniqueness and people competencies to ensure strategic plans are executed with excellence.

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