How to keep your firm moving while working remotely

Most accounting firms across the world have suddenly been thrust into remote work, with little or no warning. For the foreseeable future, working from home is the new normal.

For some, not too much changes—distributed teams were already growing in popularity. But most firms are finding themselves moving into unfamiliar territory, without time to properly prepare.

Staff who are used to commuting to an office, collaborating face-to-face and handling work from a set location, are now forced to figure out how to keep things moving from self-isolation.

If that is you, this article will help. These are our best tips to maintain “business as usual” while your world is anything but. 

📚Explore our remote working resource hub for more tips and recommendations. 📚

Keep it simple

Your first instinct if immediately thrust into remote work might be worry, unease or even panic. Stay calm. The reality is you are probably already practicing many remote work practices as you work in the office. 

You’re sending emails, working from a computer and taking phone calls. All of these things can happen in a different environment. 

Yes, there will be some changes and might be some new tools needed. But don’t rush to start buying things immediately. Start by focusing on the work you need to accomplish and how that can get done.

Hardware

Fortunately, most, if not all, of the software your firm uses has moved to the cloud. Securely accessing bank accounts and reconciling transactions can happen from anywhere.

Your biggest consideration in hardware is to ensure everyone has an effective computer with a good internet connection. 

Most of your team is likely to have most of these items at home. If not, this may be a needed business expense to equip your team with the proper hardware. If you’re concerned about the immediate cost, there are many benefits to providing remote equipment for your team, including:

  • The ability to allow the team regular telecommuting days (in a post-Covid-19 world)

  • Allowing your team to remain productive during business trips

  • Testing a work-from-home model and potentially slowly transitioning to a remote work environment 

Security

Security is always an issue when dealing with the financial affairs of clients. Having employees work from home potentially adds security issues. In order to alleviate these problems;

  • Limit the number of platforms used by employees (this includes platforms used for communication, sharing/performing work and how deliverables are given to clients).

  • Ensure internal communication is secure and networks used by the remote team are safe. Things like home WiFi instead of open networks, security software in use and possibly a VPN utilized.

  • Devices should only be those used by members of your team. While an employee’s personal computer may be utilized in some cases, using shared devices to conduct client work should be avoided.

Communication/Project Management

Once everyone has what they need, the work still needs to be done. An office allows for direct communication, it’s one of the benefits of everyone working in a single space. Maybe you use project management software or one of the popular office messaging apps. But going full remote requires everyone to actually use the tools fully — not relying on the ability to walk to the next office and chat.

If you don’t already have an appropriate solution in place for this, Karbon provides a truly collaborative platform for accounting firms to manage workflows, communicate with teams and deliver exceptional client work—from anywhere. You can learn more about other recommended tools for remote team collaboration.

One key to success: Stay focused on the work. While making this transition seems like a massive change, in many ways the actual work is the same. 

What are the tasks you do each day? A helpful thought is to ask yourself: What would I be doing now if we were still in the office? There is a good chance you are still able to complete your core tasks.

Set the (new) work terms

Managing day-to-day tasks in an office setting often means:

  • Meetings (with the team and clients)

  • Whiteboards (usually used at the meetings)

  • Emails and in-person follow-ups on tasks

While the workload remains the same during the crisis, how that work gets done (and even delivered) are different. (And we actually believe more efficiently, when done correctly!) 

Things like virtual meetings are great, as long as they are succinct and short (stand up style, 10-30 minutes long). And there are solutions such as online whiteboards that can be utilized too. However, in terms of fully managing a team and onboarding new clients in a Covid-19 scenario — a workflow management system is non-negotiable. 

Email alone gets even more bogged down when everyone is remote and it is still relied on as the primary form of “office” communication.

So, what should you look for in a remote workflow management solution?

  • Collaboration Options: While the inbox is messy, using a tool like Karbon incorporates team emails right into the workflow. The communication stays fluid all within the context of specific assignments.

  • Team and Customer Focused: Some solutions provide team messaging while others provide tools for communicating and sending deliverables to clients. There are some tools which provide both in one platform.

  • Analytics (See how the team is doing): Any remote tool you use has to provide reporting. Tracking key metrics is vital toward monitoring the health of your remote workforce.

Clearly communicate specific pandemic policies

We all want to keep those who work with us as safe as possible. It likely goes without saying, we also want to abide by the ever-changing suggestions and mandatory requirements of state/federal authorities.  

Prepare for the future

Very few were prepared for the coronavirus. Everyone longs for what was normal, and rightfully so. When the war against the virus is won, many firms will go back to business as usual.

But some will learn from this. They will use the current crisis to strengthen and better prepare their homes, families and accounting firms.  What will you do?

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