Welcome to the future! You can work from home now, and all of accounting is moving to remote work. Every so often the world turns upside down, and only the quick and nimble survive. Can your business keep up?
What is remote work?Remote work as a concept is relatively simple to explain. You work remotely from the office your business rents or owns. Or maybe your business doesn’t have a centralized office, and the business works in a decentralized manner. To better explain, remote work is best contrasted with traditional work environments.
Traditional Work EnvironmentsWe’ve all had the 9-5. You may not call it a traditional working environment, but you’ve likely experienced it at some point in your life because, up until recently, most jobs could not be done remotely. In traditional work environments, you have a designated desk in an office. You must show up at a certain time to that desk to begin work, and you can’t leave work until enough hours of work have passed. Because you have to show up at a certain time, you need to commute to the office. For most of us, that could take 20 minutes to an hour. Not only that but having a specific desk to work from means you couldn’t be productive unless you were at your desk. Your manager or boss would equate productivity with your butt being in the seat because you were definitely not working when your butt was not in the seat. This type of thinking has led to countless Dilbert cartoons of characters chained to desks wasting away their little illustrated lives.
Remote Work EnvironmentsWhen you work from home, you don’t have to go to an office to do your job. Your manager can’t see if your butt is in a seat, so for remote work to work well, there has to be trust between Management and Employees. This also makes remote work a more Result Only Work Environment (ROWE). You measure output, not presence. It doesn’t necessarily matter when you complete your work as long as your work gets done. There is no commute time to add to your daily schedule; you can wake up and get right to work. You can work in your PJs if you want to. You can be productive from anywhere because your job does not demand you to be physically present in the office to be productive.
Why is remote work a “thing”?Telecommuting has been steadily increasing over the last twenty years. In fact, it’s undoubtedly the future of knowledge work. A recent Google search trend graph illustrates this interest in remote work well: More firms have been learning how to work remotely even before the COVID-19 pandemic forced companies worldwide to adopt a remote work policy. Countless firms who use Jetpack Workflow, have been managing remote employees for a few years now. For at least 10 years, you’ve been able to work remotely; you just didn’t know it, or your company didn’t see the value in allowing you to do it.
What are some work from home best practices?If you haven’t had a positive experience with telecommuting in your career, you might think that enabling remote work is an incredibly difficult and expensive process that will require a herculean effort to achieve. Luckily, with the right tools, this is not the case for most firms. The hardest part is adjusting your mindset from a traditional working environment to a remote working environment. The tools are there, but you have to be willing to let them work.
Mistakes to Avoid When Starting to Work Remotely
1. Being Haphazard In Your Processes and Unorganized In Your DocumentationGood or bad, you will inevitably live and die by the documentation you create. Make sure it’s well-organized information, and stay aligned with your mission and vision through consistency of message and behaviors. This is doubly important if you’re a leader of a team or firm.
2. Buying Expensive Headphones, Microphones, and CamerasSetting yourself up for success when working from home doesn’t always mean buying the best gear. The best gear neither reduces any chance of poor performance nor makes you more productive. Do you have a pair of those white headphones that come with every Apple product on the market? Those will do fine, we promise. You’re going to be working from home, not from the lion cage at the zoo during feeding time (but if you want to check in on live streams of wild animals, enjoy!). If you’re really concerned about background noise, check out Krisp, which can cancel out some of that background noise. As for video quality, your webcam on your laptop is perfectly adequate. You also have permission not to turn on the video. BONUS: Invite your dog or cat to the meeting. It’s good to have a helping hand or paw. 🐾
3. Micromanaging Your EmployeesThis might be your natural tendency if you’re a manager at a firm that has a traditional working environment and is switching to remote work. You’re used to seeing people in their seats. You’re used to a team member walking up to your desk, and not being able to ignore them politely. Sneaky Micromanaging Tendencies to Avoid:
- Requiring all employees to be in an all-day virtual meeting so you can see them work. (No one needs to be Big Brother.)
- Requiring employees to document specifically what they do every hour of the day and send that to you.
- Requiring employees’ statuses to never go idle in the chat tool.
- Require instant answers to your questions all the time. When everything is urgent, nothing is.
- Requiring people to respond during off-hours.
- Assuming the worst of other people because when you communicate via text, you lose nonverbal contexts like tone and body language.