In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, remote work has become the new normal for many industries. According to a recent Gallup poll, 62% of employed US citizens worked from home during the pandemic, and another poll showed 54% of workers preferred working from home.
The accounting industry, in particular, has significantly shifted towards cloud-based practices and virtual offices. While the pandemic is over, many firms have seen the flexibility and efficiency of remote working and are planning to maintain the trend. However, shifting to remote working means CPA firms must adapt their management strategies to ensure success in this new environment.
Below, we’ll explore some practical tips for remotely managing your CPA firm and how to make the most of the benefits and challenges of this new way of working.
1. Set Clear Expectations
When employees work remotely, keeping track of work hours, response times, and deadlines can be challenging. Therefore, communicating your expectations is crucial to ensure everyone is on the same page.
One effective way to communicate expectations is to document them clearly and share them with all employees. This documentation should include work hours, response times, and deadlines. It should also contain other important information, such as the preferred communication channels and any specific software that employees should use while working remotely.
When everyone knows what’s expected of them, there’s reduced confusion and misunderstandings. It also creates a culture of accountability, ultimately leading to better performance and results.
2. Establish Regular Check-Ins
In the office, you can easily walk over to your employees to check what they are working on or the project status. Following what your employees are doing is much more challenging when working remotely.
The best way to ensure your remote employees still prioritize company projects is to have regular check-ins. These check-ins provide an opportunity to discuss work progress, provide feedback, and answer any questions or concerns that employees may have.
You can use video conferencing or chat applications to facilitate these meetings. These tools allow for face-to-face communication and collaboration, which is essential for building trust and maintaining a sense of community within the team.
Regular check-ins are also an opportunity to provide feedback to employees. By doing so, you can help employees identify areas for improvement and provide them with the support and resources they need to achieve their goals.
3. Foster Open Communication
When everyone is working from a different location, it is easy for communication to become fragmented, leading to misunderstandings and missed opportunities. To ensure everyone is on the same page, you should encourage open communication and make yourself available to answer any questions or concerns that employees may have.
Encouraging open communication starts with creating a culture of transparency and trust. Employees need to feel comfortable sharing their thoughts and ideas, and you must be willing to listen to feedback and act on it when appropriate.
This open communication can take many forms, including regular team meetings, one-on-one check-ins, and informal chats. By providing multiple channels for communication, you ensure that employees feel supported and heard.
Making yourself available means being responsive to emails, chat messages and phone calls, and being willing to schedule additional meetings or check-ins as needed. When employees know they can count on you to provide guidance and support, they are more likely to communicate openly and seek feedback.
Ultimately, fostering open communication helps build a strong, collaborative team that can succeed in a remote work environment.
4. Use Project Management Tools
Project management tools are a great way to track progress, assign tasks, and communicate with team members in real time, making it easier to manage projects and ensure everyone is on the same page.
Many popular project management tools are available today, including Asana, Trello, and Basecamp, among others. The key to selecting the right project management software for your small CPA firm is to find one that aligns with your team's needs and workflows and makes it easy to collaborate and communicate effectively.
5. Provide Necessary Resources
Ensuring that employees working from home can access the tools and resources they need to do their jobs effectively is essential.
One of the primary resources you need to provide is accounting software that allows employees to do remote bookkeeping, manage finances, prepare taxes, and perform other accounting functions from anywhere.
Providing access to accounting software also ensures that employees can work collaboratively and share data in real time, which is essential for maintaining productivity and accuracy.
In addition to accounting software, it is also essential to provide secure networks and other tools that enable employees to work safely and securely from home. Cyberattacks were up 50% on average throughout 2022, with companies embracing hybrid and remote work arrangements among the hardest hit. Examples of security resources that can be provided to employees include VPNs, firewalls, and requiring multi-factor authentication to access company systems and files.
Providing your employees with the necessary resources to complete their work remotely also means providing them with phone plans to facilitate communication and collaboration among team members. Here, you can either get a corporate plan for your team or place phone reimbursement guidelines where employees purchase their own plans and receive a refund at the end of the month.
It’s also essential to ensure your employees have a reliable internet connection to ensure smooth communication and file sharing. When transferring large files such as video media, it's important to calculate how long it will take to transfer them to ensure that you're meeting deadlines and staying on track.
By providing these resources, you can ensure that employees can work effectively from home without compromising security or data integrity.
6. Standardize Processes
Ensuring everyone works consistently and follows established procedures is often challenging when employees work from different locations. Standardizing processes can ensure consistency and improve efficiency, enabling the team to work together more effectively.
To establish standardized processes, managers should begin by documenting the steps involved in each task or project. This includes identifying key milestones, defining roles and responsibilities, and outlining the tools and resources required to complete the work. Once these processes have been documented, you should then communicate them to all employees and make them easily accessible.
One effective way to make standardized processes available to employees is by creating a central repository to store them. Employees can then access them as needed. For example, the repository could be a shared drive or a document management system that allows employees to access the information they need from anywhere.
Standardizing processes and making them easily accessible to all team members keeps everyone on the same page and working towards the same goals. This can improve efficiency, increase productivity, and better overall results for your small CPA firm.
7. Maintain Team Morale
When employees rarely see each other in person, fostering a sense of community and keeping everyone engaged and motivated is difficult.
One way to maintain team morale in such situations is to provide opportunities for social interaction. This can include virtual coffee breaks, team lunches, or other social events that allow employees to connect and get to know each other outside work.
Celebrating milestones and accomplishments is another effective way to maintain team morale. This might include recognizing individual achievements or team successes, such as completing a project or hitting a performance target.
You can also set aside time for team bonding activities. This might include virtual team-building exercises, group projects, or other activities that encourage collaboration and teamwork. These activities help cultivate a sense of community and encourage employees to work together towards shared goals.
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Remote work is here to stay, and if you want your CPA firm to have a competitive advantage, you must embrace it. However, managing a remote CPA firm requires unique skills and strategies to ensure smooth, successful operations.
By implementing the tips discussed above and providing the necessary support to your remote employees, you can manage your remote teams more effectively, improve productivity, and achieve better business outcomes. Additionally, staying up-to-date with the latest trends in the finance industry is essential for long-term success.