Voices

Keeping accounting teams afloat during the coronavirus crisis

Register now

A conversation that all accounting firms and departments need to have, especially during times of viral epidemics and other public health crises, is how to keep the business running efficiently during these times.

By now you and your colleagues are likely staying away from the office and working from home. If that’s not already your regular routine, then it may take some adjustment.

Good news — just about most, if not all, of an accountant’s duties can be done remotely.

Already around the U.S. and the world, local health authorities have advised businesses to suspend operations at their normal place of work to lower the risk of spreading sickness. In the interest of public health and the well-being of their employees, businesses should take this advice seriously and have contingency plans for keeping the business running when most, if not all, employees are unable to come into the office.

With the news that the federal tax-filing deadline has been moved to July 15, tax preparers have more time to adjust and make sure they have solid policies in place for remote working. These will be invaluable for keeping your firm or department running smoothly for when you are forced to have several or nearly all employees working from home.

It’s in this state that your business should provide employees with all the necessary tools and training to do their jobs from their homes, as well as be able to effectively communicate with coworkers. Luckily, SaaS applications make it easy for workers to access their most used software from nearly any computer, meaning that even if they’re not on your office network, they can still access their applications and data from home.

Having the right tools

SaaS applications are the new norm. Even more specialized software is moving to the cloud so that professionals are able to do their jobs from anywhere. Whether it’s programmers working on a software’s user interface or electrical engineers working on computer-aided design files, they’re all able to do it from their home computers.

For accountants who rely on having constant access to their files, a cloud-based service is a no-brainer. A common myth about going “paperless” is that it’s an outright ban on paper in your office. Paperless instead means being able to embrace a shift from traditional paperwork processes to those that take advantage of documents that can be in a digital state. There’s always going to be paperwork in your office, but now you can get it done with more efficiency.

A cloud-based system can allow you and your coworkers to get work done from just about anywhere. Data is protected through encrypted connections to the cloud server but is quick and easy for users to access.

Working in a new environment

Self-employed accountants are no doubt used to working from a home office, but for those who are used to only working in an office with constant interaction with coworkers, it can be a whole new experience.

Communication is vital when it comes to remote work. It’s essential to have platforms for communication and collaboration that are intuitive to use and responsive.

1. Stay available: Have your communication platforms (such as instant message, email and phone) on. Keep the notification sounds and visuals on. If someone needs to urgently speak with you, they can’t just walk over to your desk, so remain accessible over the web. You should use platforms that give you the capability to hold remote meetings.
2. Avoid hopping straight out of bed and right to work: Give yourself some time in the morning to wake up, eat breakfast, etc. Make sure when you start your workday, you’re actually awake.
3. Create a designated workspace: Create a space for yourself in your home where you go to work. Whether it’s a home office, the kitchen counter or on the couch, make it your space for work and gather up everything you’ll need and that it’s free of distractions.
4. Keep distractions to a minimum: Turn off the TV. Shut the door. If you have significant others and children in the home, then you need to set some ground rules beforehand for when you’re on the clock. No bothering you unless it’s important. If you’re easily tempted by certain things that distract you, then move them out of the room you’re working in, or move your workspace.
5. Working from home doesn’t mean house work: Working from home allows you to enjoy the comforts of being home, but that doesn’t mean you should be getting chores done while you’re on the clock. You can do little things, but save painting the bedroom or mowing the lawn until after work is over. For anything that urgently needs to get done, take your lunch break and inform your manager you’ll be offline briefly.
6. Enjoy a break: It’s understandable to lose focus and have a need to step away. Get up and move around a bit. Stretch, grab a snack, let the dog out, etc. Even go for a short walk. Just keep in mind that if you plan on being away from the computer for an extended period of time, let your manager know. Come back from your breaks refocused and ready.
7. Track your productivity: Create a record of your day’s productivity, basically a journal of everything you accomplished that day. This is a good way to track whether or not you’re being productive at home and if you need to do more to reduce distractions.

Working from home is the best way to reduce exposure to illness and any type of public health emergency. As long as you have the right tools to effectively communicate and collaborate, you can work just as well from home as in the office.

For reprint and licensing requests for this article, click here.
Work from home Coronavirus Practice management SaaS Cloud computing
MORE FROM ACCOUNTING TODAY