Monica and Myriam are smart, loyal, self-motivated, conscientious, independent people; both irreplaceable members of my team. Years ago, they separately told me they were moving to different states. At the time, we had a decision to make: part ways or find a path to keep my indispensable team members. Today, I have two full-time employees who live in other states.
When we first experimented with working remotely, we were relegated to express mailing paper files and floppy disks (remember those?). Years later, fax and e-mail offered a significant improvement. Today, we use virtual meeting software to stay connected. We can send documents via our portal system, although usually Monica and Myriam access the client documents through our remote log-in software. They, as well as the rest of my office staff, work with client information and documents using cloud-based accounting software and payroll systems. And it works.
Here are five tips for making remote employees work for your firm:
- Know Your Team. Trusted, valued, trained staff can continue to work even if they need to move for personal reasons. It takes a certain relationship between employee and employer to keep an office running: trust and respect are paramount.
- Communication. We use practice management software to schedule and track all projects. This works well for our office-based staff, too. In addition, a dedicated administrative person keeps our remote employees in the loop. Systems that work for remote employees also work for remote clients. We make extensive use of a virtual meeting system to share our screens, mouse and keyboards with our clients. One caveat: make sure you are wearing make-up and are dressed appropriately … from the desk up, at least.
- Processes. We have written processes for all types of projects that flow through our firm, including onboarding clients; corporate advisory services; and corporate, estate, payroll and personal compliance projects, such as various tax returns.
- Commitment. Me, the onsite staff and remote employees are all committed to making our virtual approach work. We recognize that our remote employees are valuable and integral team members. An added bonus? If anyone has a health or weather emergency, and has to work remotely, there is no extra effort involved. Those snow days become productive days, and you have a great excuse for not digging out the cars, walkways and driveways. Our remote staff does come into the office on a regularly scheduled basis, usually during high-volume times of the year and for intensive training sessions. It’s always a good excuse for an office party!
- Equipment. It is critical that each of the remote employees has a full operating office in their home similar to what they would have in an office environment. Each of them has a computer with easy remote login capabilities, scanner, printer, fax machine and landline, as well as high-speed internet. They are charged with keeping this equipment in good working order.
Was making the leap to work virtually worth it? Absolutely! Everyone made the commitment and we were able to keep Monica and Myriam part of our team.
Editor’s note: Andrea and other tax professionals shared more insights in another Intuit® ProConnect™ Tax Pro Center article that also featured advice from Heather Satterley, EA, Andrew Poulos, EA, and Christopher James.