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Today’s guest is Liam McIvor Martin. Liam has been leading the charge on remote working for the past decade by bringing together the top experts in the field on remote work through Running Remote conferences. He is the co-organizer behind Running Remote and co-founder behind Staff.com and Timing Doctor.

With nationwide stay-at-home orders in effect, accounting firms, small to medium-size between 50 to 100 employees, are expected to make challenging decisions and quickly change their perspectives overnight. One perspective change involves transitioning to remote work and adjusting processes as employees work from home. Not only do firms have to manage their teams remotely, but they have to strategically manage and maintain their client relationships. 

Summary

  • Remote Work Set-Up: What to Do Today
  • Remote Work Set-Up: What to Do Next Week
  • Remote Work Set-Up: What to Do In a Month
  • Honing In on Your Communication Practices

Resources

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Remote Work Set-Up: What to Do Today

Like a lot of us have recently, Liam has had to adapt and postpone his strategies and content, including Running Remote, the largest conference on remote work in the industry. He is also running a donation-only event called Remote Aid, which is a fully virtual adaptation of the conference. Just as Liam has adjusted the format to reach his audience, there are practical things you can do today to keep your clients engaged and your business growing.

Start by focusing on what tools your team will need to go remote. From a financial perspective, figure out what you can eliminate right now so you can be sustainable. This means you will need to make cuts now to project sustainability well into the future. 

Keep in mind that we are likely to be in this situation where unessential businesses have to be closed for several months. This can be anywhere between 1-18 months, though it is possible that a vaccine or treatments will become available within the next six months. Over the long haul, what can you cut? Some immediate places to look include office space leases. 

After you have made cuts in areas requiring a physical presence, it’s time to find tools that will help boost methods of communication and enhance project management. Liam offered several recommendations, including Slack or Twist for internal communication. One benefit of Slack is that it integrates well with different parts of other apps. 

Zoom is also a good paid option, as it offers screen shares and meetings with up to 1000 people. For those who are looking for free, no-pay options, consider using Skype. For time-tracking, Liam recommends Time Doctor. For project management, he mentions Trello and BaseCamp, but we are all in agreement that Jetpack Workflow is definitely the way to go.

Important for the company’s long term functioning is creating process documentations and seriously focusing on communication.

Remote Work Set-Up: What to Do Next Week

We are in a pandemic, so it is highly likely that employees, staff members, and team members are likely to get sick. We highly advise that you prepare for at least 20% of your staff to be sick at any time during the outbreak.

But what happens if the person in charge of payroll becomes sick and is out for six weeks? Remember that there is sacred knowledge in every business that one person knows that others may not know. Are these people with knowledge critical to keeping business operations running smoothly? Liam advises creating a system for knowledge transfer or documentation so that your firm can adapt and possibly even run without these people who are major knowledge sources for the company.

While we talked about how to set up tools to keep team members and stakeholders connected, there is a lot about communication that people don’t quite understand yet. However, there are some communication-specific technical guidelines that can help you make the most out of your tools and processes.

There are two types of communication: synchronous and asynchronous. Both types have their own drawbacks. In synchronous communication, participants in a face-to-face meeting can usually chime in real-time with interruptions and gestures. In contrast, asynchronous communication like email tends to happen with delays in between messages. 

Not all communication is equal, and synchronous communication is usually preferred. In the “hierarchy of communication,” synchronous communication is at the top: in-person, video, audio, instant messaging, and email. Since we can’t currently hold in-person meetings, video is realistically one of the more valuable forms of communication. Video is the optimum, particularly because of the non-verbal communication cues on display. In contrast, email is at the bottom of the hierarchy because it is completely asynchronous. 

Deciding on which communication method is best can feel like playing a game of Rock, Paper, Scissors. Instant messaging beats email, audio beats instant messaging, and video beats instant messaging.

Liam explains how his team meetings are successfully held. He holds two big meetings per week with every employee that is a part of the remote team. From day to day, they are in an asynchronous workflow which is not the same as face-to-face. As such, meetings must be focused and purposeful. Managing meetings is a significant aspect of managing any team, and requires carefully thought-out communication strategies to work well.

Remote Work Set-Up: What to Do In a Month

The businesses that make it out of this crisis intact will have been able to address not only the communication logistics of their operations but their employee’s mental health as well. Do employees have a focused place to work? Do they have a computer that works properly? Do they have a chair that’s comfortable to sit on? Is there a workspace in a social space? These are all things that you need to take into consideration in creating a work situation that is healthy mentally. Inevitably, the mental health of an employee working from home affects their motivation to continue working. If they’re doing well emotionally and feel supported and heard by you, their leader, then they will produce higher-quality work.

Work from home is not the same as remote work. Liam emphasizes that when working remotely, one can work at coffee shops or restaurants, but work from home is working from home, but in quarantine. This is an understandably stressful situation! Make sure you’re checking in with all of your employees to see how they are doing. High fidelity communication using video will display how people are really feeling, and it can help you to better gauge someone’s anxiety level.

For more actionable tactics and insight, listen to the full episode!

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