Key Questions To Ask Remote Employers

As we recover from the pandemic and some companies make the move towards establishing remote work on a permanent basis, candidates will likely see a lot more opportunities for teleworking roles. While it may not be an ideal fit for everyone, remote jobs provide greater flexibility, less constraints around location, and a more technology dependent working environment.

In order to assess whether the remote role you’re applying for is well supported by the organization that’s offering it, consider asking these 3 questions at the interview:

1. Can you describe your company’s remote culture?
Some companies might have an established remote workforce while others might be new to this. Because remote employees can feel disconnected, it’s important for organizations to bring everyone together, encourage frequent collaboration, and have a check-in system in place. Get a sense of how frequently the teams communicate and by what method, whether there are any virtual team events in place, or what their policies are for creating an inclusive culture that address the challenges of distance work.

2. What technologies do you have in place to support remote work?
There are many different technologies on the market that allow for collaboration and communication between team members, such as Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Google Hangouts, and Slack. You want to ensure that the company will provide such resources so you can get to know everyone at the company and have an established method of communication with your team. It is also key to determine how easily you’ll be able to share and access files. Is the company working from a cloud environment? What type of IT support will be provided? Make sure that you are comfortable or open to learning their tech stack.

3. How do you track productivity of remote employees?
Productivity tracking is done differently across organizations and even teams within one company. Some roles require closer monitoring than others. Companies can track work by using technologies such as ActivTrak or opt for an honour system. It’s important to find out what the process and expectations are around the role you’re applying for. Are you expected to work during certain hours or is there room for flexibility? Does this job have frequent deadlines and a defined reporting structure? Get as much clarity on expectations as you can.

When you interview for a remote role, ask the right questions to gauge your fit. Companies that have a well-thought-out remote work support system in place will add to your and their success.

The Pros and Cons of Virtual Accounting Teams

Remote work is reshaping the future of employment, inclusive of finance roles. According to LinkedIn’s Workplace Confidence Index, 83 percent of Finance professionals claim that they can be individually effective when working remotely while 82 percent felt the entire industry could be remotely effective. Which is not surprising considering that many finance tasks do not require frequent interaction between people. Are virtual accounting teams then the way of the future? Maybe so. Companies shouldn’t dismiss the idea.

We put together a list of pros and cons for employing a virtual finance and accounting team, to help get the conversation started:

PROS

Real-Time Access To Accounts: Cloud-based accounting software such as Quickbooks, Freshbooks, Wave and Xero and file hosting platforms such as Google Drive and Dropbox have enabled accounting teams to work remotely and share financial data easily. Leadership teams can access up-to date financial reports in a timely manner and can be sure to achieve higher data accuracy because of the multiple eyes on the books. Real-time access to accounts also allows for data-driven decision making.

Flexible Hiring: Virtual accounting professionals can be more easily hired on an as needed basis and are unrestricted by geography thus expanding your talent pool. Since accounting and bookkeeping needs can vary from one financial period to another, companies can hire contract/temporary accounting professionals to work on specific projects for a certain number of hours without the hassle of setting them up in a physical setting.

Cost Savings: With virtual accounting teams, companies can benefit from reduced overhead costs, like paying for extra office space and supplies to accommodate additional hires, especially ones that come on board for a temporary period to help with project needs.  There is also potential to save costs on computers if you allow your remote team to use personal devices.  

CONS

Limited Control: Managers could feel that a certain degree of control has been lost with virtual teams. Therefore, it is important to maintain consistent communication and conduct regular check-ins to keep a tab on the company’s finances.

Poor Coordination: If your accounting team requires on-site collaboration with other departments or needs access to in-house systems to carry out specific functions, going virtual might result in poor coordination and hinder productivity.

Data Security Threats: As company’s leverage cloud-based technologies for remote data access, it becomes easier for hackers to misuse sensitive financial information. Safeguarding financial information beyond the bounds of a company’s internal network is crucial. Virtual accounting teams should consider implementing multi-factor authentication to ensure that confidential information is not being compromised at any cost.

Finance Professionals Working from Home: 6 Tips for Success

Working from home has suddenly become the new normal for all of us in Ontario.  While for some industries remote work was already common practice, for most accounting and finance professionals this might take some getting used to.  Staying motivated, disciplined, and engaged could be a challenge at first but with the right tactics you can make it work and keep your department running smoothly.

1. Act like you’re going to the office

Get up at the same time you usually do for work, even put on your office clothes, and go about your usual routine. Use your commute time to complete some household tasks instead and then “head to work”. The key to staying motivated is to imitate your office life as much as you can.

2. Pick a dedicated workspace

Rather than moving about the house carrying your laptop from room to room, pick a dedicated workspace and stick to it. Let everybody in the house know that there are boundaries and it’s a limited distraction space for you.

3. Define clear work hours and stick to it

Just like you would head in and out of the office at defined times, practice the same discipline at home. Try to start and complete your workday at the same time as you would if you were to go to the office. It is normal to feel guilty for halting work when you’ve been home all day but if you don’t you will burn out.

4. Take breaks

Just as you would at the office, take a coffee break, walk around and take a moment to clear your head.  Use online platforms and create different chatrooms with your colleagues for different purposes. You can create a room for small talk between your colleagues and another for project collaborations. slack.com is a great tool for anyone in any field or industry to use. It promotes collaborations and teamwork.

5. Leverage technology

Working from home has never been easier with all the available technologies. There are multiple platforms that support working offsite. These are just a few great suggestions for finance and accounting professionals that you can tap into:

FreshBooks – FreshBooks is a complete suite so you can perform all financial operations from a single dashboard.

QuickBooks Enterprise – This is a fantastic tool that can be used in almost all industries in need of accounting and financial operations and can manage numerous users from everywhere all at once.

Sage 50cloud – This tool is a combination of your desktop accounting tools and cloud computing which allows you to take advantage of its 50 features to keep track and manage your financial operations.

Xero – Xero is a very easy to learn and use, cloud-based accounting software preferred by many small businesses. It doesn’t require a lot of training so if you have all the data available, you’re ready to switch and go.

Zoom – Zoom is a great video conferencing platform that is free to use. You can schedule meetings and join by clicking the meeting links in which all participants can share their video and computer screens. The host can even record the meeting in case you need to go back to it.

6. Stay in contact with your team

Stay in touch with everyone you work with.  Regular outreach will help others stay motivated and allow the workflow and exchange of ideas to continue.  Set tasks and deadlines so that everyone remains accountable.  Get creative by scheduling a virtual lunch date with your coworkers.

As you find yourself with more free time at home during COVID-19 imposed isolation, take this opportunity to reflect and advance your career.