Remote work has been an option at many companies for years, but during the pandemic it became a necessity for many workers, including finance and accounting teams.
As businesses open offices again, many professionals want to continue working remotely at least part of the time. In addition, some team members hired recently may not live near corporate offices and are remote full-time.
For managers, supervising dispersed workers has its own set of challenges. Here are some tips to help you effectively lead a remote accounting and finance team:
Invest in technology and automation
It’s worthwhile spending the time and budget to ensure every remote team member has the essentials for success, including:
A fast internet connection
A quality webcam and headset
A laptop equipped with all the necessary software
If you haven't done so already, you might want to upgrade your processes for payments and expenses by digitalizing expense claims and offering employee debit cards, for example. In addition, using a digital documentation system and paperless invoicing will help you avoid having to track down individual receipts and streamline your system.
Automating specific tasks like those mentioned above, especially when you have a remote team, can save you money and keep everyone organized because they’re using the same paperless processes. It will also free up your staff to work on higher-level projects.
If you’re unsure what systems to upgrade or what software to use, consider bringing in a consultant with expertise in finance and accounting processes who can offer advice and assist with the transition.
Address security concerns
Security is a crucial concern for dispersed accounting and finance teams. Here are just a few things to consider:
How will you share and access company financial documents?
Will staff use company or personal computers for work?
Will you use a cloud-based system, which is often ideal for remote work, and a VPN (a virtual private network) for added security?
Communicate often and clearly
Managing a remote team requires next-level communication. Have regular check-ins with each staff member: You may even schedule daily check-ins with recent hires or those new to remote work to make sure they’re focused on the right projects.
Share the larger goals for both the team and company and give each person specifics about what they should be focusing on and the results you expect. It’s also a good idea to have regular times each day for remote staff to reach you and ask questions or get input.
Agree on communication style
Decide whether team members IM each other for urgent matters or pick up the phone and if the group and one-on-one meetings are on a video-conferencing platform like Zoom or Microsoft Meetings. Can meetings be scheduled at any time or limited to certain parts of the day, considering different time zones and schedules?
Make sure everyone agrees on how and when to engage with the team.
Managing a remote staff requires some trust, especially if you’re used to overseeing a team in person. With a dispersed team, it’s best to focus on whether staff members turn in quality work on time instead of when they’re doing the work.
Everyone may be required to be available at specific hours during the day for meetings, for example, but some employees could start and stop earlier, while others begin and end later each day.
Allow some flexibility in everyone’s schedule when possible.
Encourage social connection
Give employees ways to connect on a personal level. While requiring everyone to attend a Zoom happy hour after work can feel forced, consider adding 15 minutes to a weekly or monthly meeting for everyone to talk about non-business-related topics. That way, socializing doesn’t feel onerous or forced.
Many supervisors worry that remote staff won’t work as much if they’re not in the office, but in many cases, it’s the opposite result: People work longer hours when they’re at home because there’s no definitive break between work and home life.
Make sure you don’t overload any team members and check in regularly about their workload. If you find your team frequently working long hours, you might want to temporarily bring in a financial or accounting professional to provide extra support.
Managing remote accounting and finance teams comes with its own set of challenges. Remember to be patient, communicate early and often with your team, and be flexible: Quickly adjusting practices or systems that aren’t working will help keep you and your team focused and productive.
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Clea Badion is a copywriter, social media manager, and corporate blogger from the San Francisco Bay Area. She’s been writing about career and workplace trends for over a decade, specializing in blogging, website content, ghostwriting, thought leadership pieces, executive speeches, and presentations.