This article was written in collaboration with LeaseQuery’s partner in easing the burden of lease accounting and closing the books efficiently, FloQast.
Whether it’s ensuring compliance, completing an audit or closing the books at month’s end, tight deadlines are all too common in the world of accounting. And as employees across the United States, including accountants, continue to dictate the flexibility their employer offers, remote work is becoming more commonplace, and sometimes necessary when unexpected circumstances arise. However, managing a remote team of accountants can have its complications if firms aren’t prepared from the beginning to implement remote work as a part of their culture.
8 Tips to Manage Your Remote Team of Accountants
1) Have the right tools for communication
Managing a remote team is impossible without the right communications tools in place. Having options available for chat, conference calls, etc. that will let staff work independently while feeling connected, will provide you with the ability to manage your team as if they were sitting right next to you. A few options that work well for team communication are:
2) Set expectations and deliverables
As a manager, whether in the office or out, it’s imperative to communicate exactly what you expect the accountants on your team to complete, and help them prioritize accordingly. Ensuring responsibilities and deadlines from the beginning is crucial to success. Using a project management tool or documenting tasks on a spreadsheet can help prioritize and assign responsibilities across the team. It’s also important to be granular about tasks employees need to complete in order to be successful and meet deadlines.
3) Establish clear communications processes
It’s important to not only schedule regular check-ins with your accounting team, but also establish a time for open office hours where employees can pop in virtually for discussions. Distance is no excuse to pause these types of check-ins. A few other catch-up conversations managers should be scheduling outside the open office hours include:
- A weekly team meeting: From partners to junior accountants, everyone on your staff shares what they will accomplish during the week including project guidelines, accomplishments and anything blocking or impacting their ability to meet deadlines.
- A weekly one-on-one meeting between manager and team member: Accountants and other team members should use this meeting as a chance to lay the groundwork for the week. Managers should help employees prioritize what they are working on, go through the accounting tasks that will consume their time, and check the progress of items and their upcoming due dates.
4) Update and streamline your processes
As the team works in different locations, standardizing your processes and keeping track of who is doing what is key to staying afloat. For complex processes, like achieving lease accounting compliance for example, that involve multiple team members, efficiency needs to be at its maximum. For other regularly occurring tasks, such as closing the accounting books each month, developing a comprehensive checklist your employees can follow will help the team achieve consistent success.
5) Identify the appropriate spokesperson
From staff accountants, all the way to finance leaders, it’s essential for employees to know exactly which person to go to for the various subjects of accounting and communications. And beyond that, ensuring those spokespersons make themselves available – whether its open office hours, online chat, or responsive via email – to keep all operations on the right path. Leaders must do their part to identify these subject matter experts and make their paths of communication crystal clear from day one of remote work.
6) Proper documentation
From an audit perspective, employees should consider retaining a proper audit trail by ensuring the financial statement documentation and support mirrors that of an on-site closing. The auditor’s level of assurance will not change with regard to giving a “clean” opinion. Save all remote closing supporting documentation in an environment where the employees and auditors are able to grab the documents electronically. Also, as noted above, ensure the company leaders of the closing process have clear points of contact from the auditors, as efficient and effective communication paths between remote employees and/or auditors will be key for a successful, smooth audit process.
7) Make use of the proper technology
The digital revolution is making it possible for so many businesses around the world, including accounting firms, to work remote. There are thousands of technology solutions out there to help businesses run smoothly anywhere, any time. However, for accountants specifically, investing in technology that establishes a consistent remote workflow and helps eliminate manual error is necessary to continue moving the business forward. From closing the books each month to adhering to governmental regulations, purpose-built software can facilitate the success of these processes.
8) Trust your team and continue business as usual
Managing remote accountants requires a significant amount of trust. Ensuring you implement systems that allow full insight into everything going on allows you to maintain a sense of control without micromanaging your team. Having these systems in place will allow management to track, learn and set corrections for their accountants while ensuring increased productivity and accuracy across the team.
Making remote work part of your firm’s culture
Overall, offering flexibility in your business and establishing concrete processes for a remote team of accountants allows businesses to hire the best talent available and provide optimal work options to their employees. With the right systems and protocols in place, managers will find that collaboration, communication, and visibility among team members will remain the same – or potentially even run smoother in the long run.
FloQast is a close management software created by accountants for accountants to close faster and more accurately. On average, accounting teams who rely on FloQast close three days faster. Seamlessly integrated with ERPs and leveraging existing checklists and Excel, FloQast provides a single place to manage the month-end close and gives everyone visibility. To learn more, visit www.floqast.com.