You’d have to be hiding under a rock somewhere not to realize that work from home options and capabilities are in high demand. It’s even likely that some or all of your accounting firm’s employees are working at home right now, trying to get their daily work accomplished.
The challenge that the COVID-19 crisis has posed to accounting firms came on us quickly, and many firms were unprepared to provision workers at home. As a result, CPAs have leaned on stop-gap measures such as dropping paperwork in their employee’s mailboxes and utilizing online productivity and communications apps of varying capacity and security.
But now that we’re into this for a few weeks and the situation doesn’t seem to be going away very soon, you’re looking for a more permanent solution to the work from home dilemma.
Why? There are several reasons, but the ones that the Alavanca Systems team is hearing most often are:
- “Some of our employees are liking the work from home scenario, and we’d like to accommodate that on an ongoing basis to free up office space.”
- “Even before COVID-19, our clients’ companies were ahead of us in cloud technology use, and this crisis has given us the push we needed to lean into remote-work options.”
- “The cloud apps we went to in the initial panic of the COVID-19 crisis were not built for our workflow and are likely not as secure as we would like.”
- “We’re looking for a more robust remote work system that has professional business features, integrates with our systems, and can be leveraged effectively within our operations after the Coronavirus storm has passed.”
Whatever reason your accounting firm has for setting up work-from-home capacity for your staff, Alavanca Systems is here to help. Just call or email us to begin a no-obligation conversation.
So Here They Are… Our Top 10 Successful Work from Home Practices for Accounting Firms.
- Security, Security, Security – If your staff is going to work outside of the protection of your office network, you’ve got to ensure the protection of your proprietary and confidential client data while it is in transfer and use. We suggest you do this by:
- Instructing your staff to never use public WiFi for business. If necessary, have them use a private hotspot off their smartphone. This still presents some security challenges but does not have the gaping holes of public WiFi.
- Verify that your staff’s home networks are secured by a complex password – not the stock passcode that came with their system or their dog’s name.
- Purchase an encrypted VPN tunnel for your staff to use when conducting business.
- Use cloud-based remote desktop technology to give them secure access to all their work without leaving work-related data on their personal/home machines.
- Over Communicate – Working from home can be an adjustment for those that are used to operating within an office environment. No longer are you having those quick conversations in the hall or at the water cooler to keep everything on track. Now, you have to purposely communicate, and that can take some time to get accustomed to doing.
- Be Flexible – Working from home is different than working out of the office in that your staff has all of the distractions of home life. With the kids home from school and extra responsibilities on their plate, your CPAs and admin staff may need to work later in the day, or earlier, to keep all of their balls in the air.
- Get the Tools – One of the challenges of remote work is equipping workers with the tools needed to do their jobs. Here are some of the tools your staff is going to need if they are going to make the most of their home working hours.
- Secure internet connection
- VoIP telephone extension
- Business-class video/chat solution
- Encrypted email setup
- VPN subscription
- Cloud-based access to their files and desktop (hosted desktops) (Link to the new hosted desktop page)
- Connect the Clients – Perhaps the most challenging part of a work-from-home setup is keeping everyone in the loop and up to date. Bringing the clients into the picture and keeping them informed is critical to this effort. By using business-class communications tools such as Microsoft Teams or Slack, you can have secure communications and file-sharing with your clients, showing them progress on their projects each step of the way.
- Don’t Micromanage (Trust Your People) – It’s easy as an employer to think, “They’re at home goofing off on my dime.” Yes, maybe, but that’s doubtful. Hire good people and then trust them to get the work done. Judge their performance by the product instead of trying to control each aspect of their workday at home.
- Be Careful of Siloed Information – When people work from home, it’s easy for them to feel isolated and left out of the loop – whether on projects or social information within the office. Make sure that your work-from-home employees have free access to all the information and people that internal staff has. Keep them in the loop with projects and make sure that they know what’s going on inside the office – whose birthday it is, whose kid won MVP, who laughed so hard they fell off their chair, etc. Keeping work-from-home employees informed will make them feel like they are still an important part of the company.
- Stay Professional – Although most work-from-home employees take every precaution to maintain a professional image for clients, they must understand your expectations in this matter. What dress is approved for video chats? What phone system is allowed to be used? (A VoIP phone system branded to your firm can maintain that professional phone experience for the clients.) What cloud apps are approved for use? (Using consumer-grade apps instead of business-grade apps can cause uncertainty of security for clients.)
- Clearly Define Expectations – When everyone is working in the same office, it’s easy to adjust the course of a project or workflow along the way. If someone isn’t doing things the way they need to be done, a quick conversation can put things on the right course. However, in a remote-work scenario, more thought has to be given to instructions and expectations on the front end. An employer can’t simply assume that the employee working from home knows what they want. Instead, everything has to be thought through and detailed in the instructions from the beginning.
- Find Ways to Make it Fun – This is a stressful time for everyone, and we’re all in this together. Whether you are social distancing in an office environment or home in self-isolation. Don’t forget that talking with co-workers about things other than work is important for their mental health and will, in the end, improve camaraderie and productivity. Sending around a funny cat video (or dancing goats) never hurt anyone!
For more information about how you can improve your accounting firm’s work-from-home technology and secure your client data, contact the Alavanca Systems team. We’re here to help.
Ciro Cetrangolo is an IT specialist with over 30+ years in the IT services industry. Ciro has a deep understanding of the software, workflow, and underlying technology of accounting organizations and helps firms like yours achieve the secure, stable, and streamlined IT environments you need to accomplish your work more effectively. See my Amazon Author Profile