Did you know that the number of people working remotely has increased 400 percent in the past 10 years? That’s a pretty staggering statistic. And it means that more and more businesses are having to learn about managing remote teams who aren’t physically present in the office. While challenging, it can be done effectively with the right tools.
In this article, we’ll give you tips on how to best manage your remote accounting staff. By following these guidelines, you’ll be able to keep them productive and happy — even if they’re not physically in the same office as you.
The growing trend toward remote work
First, let’s take a step back and look at the rise of teleworking in today’s society. The dramatic growth trend mentioned above will only continue: it’s estimated that by 2025, 70 percent of the workforce will work remotely at least some of the time.
Many factors are driving this trend. The COVID-19 pandemic forced many businesses to allow their employees to work remotely. But even before that, there was a growing desire for greater work-life balance and flexibility in how people work.
New technology has also made it easier than ever to work remotely. In the past, people who wanted to work from home had to find a way to do so without access to the internet or email. Now, of course, everyone has a smartphone and a laptop, and plenty of apps and programs enable remote work.
Whatever the reasons, it’s clear that remote work is here to stay. And that means businesses need to learn how to manage staff who aren’t in the office. This presents some challenges, but with the right tools and approach they can all be met.
Remote work challenges for accounting firms
While there are many benefits to having a remote workforce, there are also some challenges. For accounting firms, some of the biggest ones include the following.
Dealing with clients electronically
Many accounting firms have long relied on in-person meetings with clients. But, due to the pandemic, that’s no longer possible — or at least, not as easy. Instead, firms have had to learn how to communicate effectively with clients electronically. This can be difficult, especially for larger firms with more complicated cases.
Maintaining normal productivity levels
When staff is in the office, keeping tabs on their productivity is easier. But it can be harder to tell how much work is done when working remotely. This can be challenging for managers, who must ensure that employees stay on task.
Supporting employees in times of isolation
One of the biggest challenges of working remotely is the isolation that it can cause. Employees can feel cut off from their colleagues, leading to feelings of loneliness and depression. Managers must check in on employees and ensure they’re doing okay.
Reassessing office space needs
With more staff working remotely, there’s less need for office space. This has led many firms to reassess their real estate needs and whether they can downsize their physical real estate.
Questions about downsizing office staff
Along similar lines, the pandemic has led many firms to question whether they need as many employees as they currently have. With more staff working remotely, do firms need to maintain the same number of employees?
Lack of collaboration or in-person communication
One of the benefits of having staff in the office is that they can easily collaborate on projects. But when the team is working remotely, that’s not always possible. This can be a challenge for managers, who need to find ways to encourage collaboration among employees.
Benefits of managing a remote accounting staff
Many businesses are initially hesitant to allow their accounting staff to work remotely. But there are many benefits to managing a remote accounting staff, including:
- Increased productivity. Studies have shown that working from home increases productivity compared to working in an office. This is likely due to several factors, including fewer distractions and the ability to create a more customized work environment.
- Lower overhead costs. If you don’t have to provide office space for your remote accounting staff, you can save significant money on overhead expenses.
- Greater flexibility. When your accounting staff is remote, they can work from anywhere — which means they can be more flexible with their schedules. This can be a massive benefit if you have employees who need to care for children or elderly parents.
- Improved morale. Employees with greater flexibility and control over their work lives are typically happier and more engaged. And that leads to better performance.
Taking advantage of these benefits can be a game-changer for your business. But it’s important to note that managing a remote accounting staff effectively requires forethought and preparation.
Proven tactics for managing remote workers
You can’t just let your employees work from home and hope for the best. You need to put some systems and processes in place to ensure they’re productive and happy. We’ll discuss some of those systems below:
- Provide effective technology. One of the most important things you can do is to provide your employees with the right technology. This includes collaboration software (like Slack or Microsoft Teams) and accounting practice management software (like Caseware).
- Frequently check in with the team. It’s essential to have regular check-ins with your employees, even if they’re working remotely. This can help you stay up to date on what’s going on and identify any issues early.
- Meet in person regularly. If possible, schedule regular in-person meetings. This can help employees feel more connected to each other and prevent them from feeling isolated.
- Encourage communication. Ensure employees know they can come to you with any questions or concerns. Encourage open communication and make yourself available as much as possible.
- Be flexible with schedules. When possible, be flexible with employees’ schedules. This can help them balance their work and personal responsibilities.
You can effectively manage a remote workforce with proactive planning and the right technology. By taking the time to understand the challenges and implementing proven tactics, you can ensure that your practice runs smoothly — even in these uncertain times.
Effective remote staff management
While there are some challenges to managing a remote workforce, there are also several proven tactics that can help. Understanding today’s challenges and implementing the right technology and processes can help you manage your remote staff effectively.
Caseware’s practice management software allows accounting professionals to manage their teams remotely and effectively. With features like engagement information, timekeeping and client management, it’s easy to stay on top of projects and ensure that work is getting done. Learn more about how Caseware can help you manage your remote accounting team.