The COVID-19 crisis put remote working to the ultimate test. Working from home went from being “the future of work” to “the new normal” in a few short months. Companies that were ill-prepared to operate outside physical offices soon found themselves struggling.
Fortunately, digital technologies were there to pick up the pieces. Thanks to cloud-based tools, most professionals have worked effectively through the pandemic. Both employers and employees have realized they can get a lot more work done at home than they thought.
Lockdowns may be easing, and vaccines may be spreading, but remote working is here to stay. Particularly in the accounting and finance departments, there are unique aspects of our jobs that make the transition to remote work a bit different than the rest of the company. As a manager, your job is to nurture, guide, and support your team to achieve their goals while going through these transitions to work from home.
If you manage a remote team, you can improve team dynamics significantly with these 5 tip:
The first step toward achieving a successful remote team is reevaluating your remote working policy and making the necessary updates. If you do not have a remote working policy, now is the time to create one. Without a clear steer on who does what, when, and where, confusion and disconnect can ensue.
An effective remote working policy lays down some basic rules about working remotely, all while giving autonomy and empowering your team to work in the way that best suits them. Create expectations related to work equipment, working hours, communication tools, cybersecurity, productivity tracking, and well-being. Be specific about things that matter to you and the team. For example, do you want detailed tasks logged in Asana (or whatever task management tool your team uses)? Do you want everyone to check in at a certain time each day? Be sure to communicate details that are important.
Since you can’t be there to physically supervise your employees, a remote working policy is only effective when your team not only understands it, but fully embraces it. Plan to revisit your policy regularly to promote continuous improvements even beyond the pandemic.
Once the right policies are in place, turn your attention to core financial processes. For most organizations, core processes are those that involve cash management, approval processes and budgeting. Paper invoices and checks are difficult to track when working remotely, so make sure someone is assigned to follow up on any paper items being sent to the office.
To streamline cash management in remote settings, you must expedite the transition from paper to electronic documentation, and from asynchronous electronic documentation to cloud based softwares. Establish a centralized digital workflow to house documentation and deploy a vendor management tool like Sudozi to track key contracts, spend requests, and payments.
When working remotely, it is easy to get caught up in day-to-day operations and forget long-running strategic goals and initiatives. Without the right approach, processes like budget reviews, which rely on heavy cross-functional collaboration, can suffer significantly.
To successfully pursue strategic initiatives when working remotely, start by updating your financial systems to grant appropriate permissions to the right users, so they can input data, analyze trends, and access reports. If your initiative requires manually consolidating data from various departments, have a shared location set up to receive consolidation data from all stakeholders.
It’s worth the effort to put extra emphasis on leading indicators for key items in the business. With remote work, it may take longer to schedule a meeting with several executives and get to a root cause of an issue. Setting up alerts to shift focus back to strategic goals and initiatives can help you stay on top of strategic elements for the business.
If your finance team is new to remote work, you must ensure they have all the tools they need to communicate effectively. Not only do finance teams need digital tools for basic communication, but their tools for functional work needs to be collaborative as well.
From budgeting to paying bills, these tools should enable multiple users and commenting to facilitate quick discussions with the right business context. Minimize copies of excel files stored only on one person’s laptop by transitioning to various online spreadsheet tools and software.
It is also critical to conduct thorough security testing for all digital collaboration tools you use. That way, you are minimizing your organization’s cyber threats.
Engaged employees are an important indicator of success within a remote finance function. When employees are consistently engaged, they have a stronger sense of belonging and are more motivated to become active team members.
One of the most effective ways of boosting engagement is defining a communications cadence with frequent touchpoints. You can set up a virtual meet-and-greet every morning where people share casual conversations as they have breakfast. You can also create closely-knit “pods” of employees that can work closely together and engage more frequently. Break down the expectation that a meeting needs to be business focused by introducing trivia and other purely fun activities to the team.
As a finance manager, you must encourage your team to find creative and effective ways to stay connected. This is important not only within your team but for finance team members who need to interact with other parts of the organization. If you haven’t already tried out Donut, give it a shot. As we’ve discussed before, finance teams need to stay on top of activity in the business, whether through formal or informal means.
The “new normal” has led to a rapid acceleration of mobility for finance teams. It has presented unique opportunities to utilize technology, reevaluate existing processes, and test new working methods. Finance leaders must make the organizational changes necessary to equip their team for success.
Embrace the tips above to help position your team toward achieving efficiencies and improvements, both now and in the long-term.
What are some of your favorite remote team tips? Share them with us at firstname.lastname@example.org!