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Coronavirus

Best practices for remote accounting during COVID-19

Will Hill, MBA  Product Manager — Tax Professionals Advisory, Thomson Reuters

Will Hill, MBA  Product Manager — Tax Professionals Advisory, Thomson Reuters

With a new normal infiltrating our work environments, firms are forced to determine the best practices for remote accounting during COVID-19. In times of uncertainty, both your staff and your clients are going to pose questions.

In this episode of Pulse of Practice “Going Remote as Firms Deal With COVID 19”, Paul Miller, CPA from Business by Design, and I discuss advising and communicating remotely with your staff and clients. It is important, now more than ever, for your firm to show leadership and become the face of calm.

Invest in an infrastructure that allows you to work from anywhere

We are entering uncharted territory, and firms are looking to each other to figure out how they should proceed. While no firm may have all the answers, there are ways we can still find success while remote accounting during COVID-19.

“We’ve invested heavily into an infrastructure that is not just bricks and mortar here,” notes Miller. “We can work anywhere. Many firms have that capacity, but we really are autonomous where people can work separately. That has been important and fairly seamless in the sense of preparing my staff to be set up to work from home.”

However, when we look at working at an accounting firm, there are social interactions, processes, and work habits that are vastly different when an employee works remote versus an office.

“We started instituting a couple things right away,” adds Miller. “We check in every day. We have a short video meeting. I think seeing people is going to be very important.”

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Remote accounting during COVID-19 means finding a new rhythm

In transitioning to the new, remote lifestyle, one of the words that comes to mind is rhythm. While in the office, you’ve adjusted to a sense of flow and rhythm from day to day. You may previously have worked a day or two at home but moving into a full-time rhythm while the rest of your environment is disrupted requires a larger adjustment.

“The first day or so, it was kind of a weird thing for people,” says Miller. “They really miss the social interaction, and the back and forth of things. But we’ve been starting to adjust to what it is. And now we must develop different systems and processes.”

Walking over and starting a conversation with a coworker is no longer an option. However, we now have several choices for communication. Platforms like Microsoft Teams, Skype for Business, Slack, and others make it easy to chat with staff members, while keeping your emails clear for more client-related work. Also, while there is an adjustment period to this environment, it is critical to stay in a routine.

“Say, ‘I’m leaving for work.’ Go sit in your car for 15 minutes, meditate, get out of your car, come back in the house, and go to work,” says Miller. “We need this sense of routine. And I worry that people have this idea of working from home: I don’t have to put myself together. I think those are cautionary tales. To be truly productive, you must feel good.”

Life will still happen

Remote auditing during COVID-19 will not always work smoothly. While watching a major news announcement from a woman reporting from her home, someone walked into the kitchen and started frying something on the stove, disrupting the broadcast.

When people say, “work remote”, we must rethink how we define professionalism. Many people are home with children screaming, dogs barking, and other loving distractions. As much as you get into your productive routine, life is still going to happen.

Remember, everybody is balancing this new lifestyle, and people will be understanding. Working from home is not always as easy as it seems. Try your best to keep your work-life routine and your clients will be forgiving.

Provide a sense of normalcy to remote accounting during COVID-19

We are now dealing with clients on a regular basis that are nervous. We must be able to start providing some sense of normalcy for them.

“I think the advisory service is about leading people,” notes Miller. “We have to sometimes be the voice of reason, the voice of calm, the voice of fact, and help people.”

“You have a business owner who now has to lay people off, can’t go into their office, or can’t have workers show up. Who are they talking to? They don’t have a lot of resources. I feel this whole way of how we’re communicating, the nature of the relationships we build, and how we support the clients we work with is so important right now more than ever.”

Remote accounting during COVID-19, like always, is about giving direction. This is the time to sit in the driver’s seat and steer through the fear and concern. Put your plan together around the new reality. Ensure your clients frequently that their work is still being handled. Ask the questions before they are asked. Be driven by truly helping people. Information is changing rapidly, and it can be difficult to keep up with the emails and announcements to your clients. The leadership begins when you become the face of calm. While the plan you put together may constantly evolve and change, you must retain a sense of calm and say, “somehow, we’re going to work this out.” We are going to figure it out.

Listen to the “Going Remote as Firms Deal With COVID 19” episode of the Pulse of the Practice podcast on your preferred platform (Google Play, Apple, Spotify, Stitcher) or here.

 

 

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