The “remote work revolution” is well under way. In 2019, approximately 66% of companies report having at least some remote workers, while 16% are fully remote.
Businesses continue to implement new policies to offer more flexibility and improved work-life balance for employees, with two of the fastest-growing new workplace models being remote working and flextime.
Working remotely simply means employees work outside the traditional office environment. This could mean working from a coffeeshop, coworking space, from home, while travelling, or otherwise. With flextime, employees still work a set number of hours each week, but they have the freedom to choose when they complete those hours (within agreed-upon limits).
Benefits of Remote Work and Flextime Programs
When thoughtfully implemented, transitioning your company to remote work or flextime has benefits for both the company and its employees, including:
- Reduced costs for employers
- Higher productivity and satisfaction for employees
- Decrease in employee sick days and time off
- Environmental benefits such as reduced greenhouse emissions produced by commuters
- Increased employee retention
Guidelines for transitioning your business to a remote working culture
As with any major institutional change, new policies regarding work from home and/or flextime take time to perfect. As a company that specializes in placing remote tax and audit professionals at CPA firms, we at Beech Valley Solutions have developed several best practices to help the transition go as smoothly as possible.
Here are a few things that have helped our clients in the past:
1.) Run a Pilot Program
We recommend piloting a work-from-home program with a few top-performing employees to test the waters. Your pilot program need not be complex. Simply:
- Allow test subjects to work remotely for one to two weeks
- Task them with documenting any obstacles they encountered throughout the trial
- Ask them to propose potential solutions to address those obstacles
After the trial period has ended, meet with your test subjects to discuss their experience and determine ways to improve upon the arrangement. Gathering data and observations during the pilot will help you and your team to create a structured and scalable system.
2.) Leverage the Cloud for Systems and Software
If your firm is considering giving employees more flexibility in their work schedules, you’ll want to provide them with cloud-based systems and software. Cloud-based systems are hosted on the Internet rather than on local servers in your office, which makes them ideal for remote workers who can access them from anywhere.
There are a wide range of cloud-based audit, tax, and practice management systems that will allow for maximum efficiency. As a couple examples, CCH Axcess and Thomson Reuters Ultra Tax are fully cloud tax preparation software built for CPA firms.
Of course, if you’re already using desktop-based systems and don’t have the capacity to switch to cloud-based before busy season, consider working with Right Networks. They will host all of your desktop apps in the cloud for you for a monthly fee.
3.) Make Communication a Priority
Communication is key in remote work atmospheres. Open and intentional communication keeps employees feeling involved and in-the-loop, while at the same time giving supervisors peace of mind. We’re all used to communicating with one another in person, at the office; however, working with remote or flextime freelancers can present new challenges if you’re not mindful of them.
These best practices will help keep feedback flowing and ensure continued progress on projects:
- Assign each remote worker with a mentor or advisor who they can go to with questions or concerns related to any and all projects
- Establish clear expectations for communication including frequency, method, chain-of-command, etc. The most essential element when working with remote freelancers is to communicate where he or she will be receiving work from, or what the deadlines are to complete the work.
- Schedule a regular update call (weekly at minimum) between employee and advisor to review project status and upcoming goals
We hope these tips are helpful in your company’s journey towards remote work, flextime, and embracing the gig economy. Should you have any questions, feel free to contact us anytime!