Marketing Lead Hive Technology Inc.
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How To Work Well When Team Members Work From Home

May 9th 2016
Marketing Lead Hive Technology Inc.
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Allowing accountants to work from home (at least a part of the time) has many advantages.  It saves money on office space, reduces time wasted on travel, and allows accountants greater work-life balance. Furthermore, employees report greater productivity when working from home.  A recent survey from FlexJobs reports that 50% of respondents say home is their location of choice to be most productive.

As accounting firms are starting to see the benefits, the virtual working revolution has come to the accounting world.  According to another survey from FlexJobs, 80% of companies surveyed had flexible working arrangements for some employees with 37% reporting a formal, written flexible work policy. All of the big 4 accounting firms and many other smaller firms boast extensive flexibility policies.

Although there are many advantages, working on a virtual accounting team comes with its own unique challenges. Without the camaraderie that develops naturally from seeing your colleagues everyday, it can be difficult to establish the same trust and togetherness. Here are some key tactics for getting virtual teams right.

  • Schedule regular meetings

Assigning a consistent day and time to check in with colleagues on progress and address any problems or challenges can be useful. It helps align team goals and expectations. In addition, knowing what your colleagues are working on and the challenges they are facing can help promote empathy. This is essential for creating a more supportive environment where colleagues are willing to help each other.

  • Clearly define expectations for tasks and processes

Without the convenience of being able to pop by your colleague’s office, it can be more difficult to coordinate tasks on a virtual accounting team.  Again, deliberate and clear communication is required to ensure everyone is on the same page. Therefore, it’s important to focus attention on the details of task design and the processes that will be used to complete them. This attention to detail (which should be easy for accountants) can go a long way in reducing miscommunication.

  • Set up a regular feedback system

Employees want to be recognized for their work. It is essential for promoting employee engagement and commitment.  According to a study by StackHands, companies that implement regular employee feedback have turnover rates that are 14.9% lower than for employees who receive no feedback. Therefore, it is crucial to encourage feedback on your virtual accounting team. It could be as simple consistently shouting out wins of your colleagues in your messaging tool. Alternatively, tools like Bonusly, a tool that allows employees to send each other micro-bonuses, can be another great way to celebrate each other’s wins.

  • Use the right technology

For your regularly scheduled meetings, hosting in video puts a face to the person you are working with and creates a more authentic connection.  In addition, being able to read their body language as well as their words reduces miscommunication. Furthermore, there are so many tools that are great for hosting virtual meetings including Zoom, Google Hangout, Vidyo. So it’s easier than ever to meet up virtually!

Project management tools, like Hive, are great for establishing priorities and tracking results without seemingly endless email chains.  In addition, these tools maintain the history of previous discussion, which makes it easier for others to catch up after an absence.  There are many options when it comes to project management software, but it is worth your time to investigate the options to increase efficiency for your accounting team.

On a virtual accounting team, it is much more difficult to know what the team members have been accomplishing each day.  While trust is important, there are many great apps and tools that provide assurance that everyone is producing results. One example is iDoneThis a simple web app that sends an evening email reminder to everyone on your team to write a quick reply stating what they did that day. The next day, everyone gets a digest with what everyone else has been working on. In addition, time tracking apps (especially useful for hourly billing) such as TimeDoctor and Hubstaff can help reassure managers that their employees are working.

Although virtual work comes with certain challenges, it is worth the effort to help your team achieve great things with greater flexibility.

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By shagun011
May 27th 2016 10:23

Hi Toland - this is one of the most exhaustive list of time tracking tools. Thank you!
I would like to add two more to the list HiveDesk (http:www.hivedesk.com) and HubStaff (http://www.hubstaff.com) to the list. Both are pretty solid tools.
I am sure freelancers would love this list but even digital marketing agencies, small IT firms and outsourcing companies can use these tools to track time of their remote employees and contractors. It just provides more visibility to clients if when you can back up the hours billed with screen shots and time logs.

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By alexmsp
Jul 19th 2016 09:18

I totally agree Toland... You know, people working from are always considered a pain. But it all depends on the manager or the company is getting things done from them.

As an MSP, sometimes I do get WFH requests from some of my employees, but now I do have the setup in place to track and manage everything they do, so its not a pain anymore :)

Thanks for all your software suggestions, I will put them on my calendar to check out during the weekend. But there is nothing exhaustive as mentioned in the other comment.

In the last decade, when there were only few tools to manage projects and tasks, things were very difficult an d I was not letting anyone login remotely then, but now there are handful of project management tools for every industry, things are different.

I now know what my team is doing, the time taken to do complete tasks, project insights, billable hours, etc. pretty easily and in my inbox too. That is great, isn't it? not sure what else can be accomplished with a project management tool.

I was using Basecamp in the past, which I dont want to go back to, but now I use Vorex - http://www.vorex.com which is a great tool and a better alternative to the former.

Alex

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