How Hybrid and Remote Accounting Teams Can Combat Silos and Decentralization Challenges
Jan 10, 2022 | By Michael Whitmire
Has your company culture faltered since your team started working remotely? Do both managers and employees express concern over a lack of face-to-face communication? Does gathering information from coworkers take more time and effort than when everyone shared the same physical space?
But what is less clear is how remote work affects remote accountants over time.
Some form of remote work is here to stay — that much we know. In fact, Nine out of 10 remote workers want to continue working from home to some degree. Still, this is the first time many accounting teams are separated, and, as a result, the effects of remote work over time are still a bit of an unknown.
In an ideal world, companies would have invested in cloud-based technology, established clear remote-work policies, and built a virtual culture well before the event that necessitated WFH policies en masse. But of course, the speed at which companies were forced to send their teams home meant this level of preparation was not feasible. And while organizations and their accounting teams have done a phenomenal job making the leap to remote work, nearly two years in, there are still some siloing and decentralization challenges to be overcome.
As we discussed last week, creating and maintaining a positive company culture isn't just a best practice: It's the key to attracting and retaining top accounting talent.
The Challenges of Remote Work
Remote work offers several benefits, including no commute, the ability to work a flexible schedule, and greater work/life integration. But it’s not without its challenges.
According to Buffer’s 2021 State of Remote Work report, some of the biggest challenges of working remotely include:
Difficulties with Collaboration and Communication
According to the survey, 16% of respondents cited difficulties with collaboration and communication as their biggest remote work struggle.
When everyone is in the same office, you can compensate for not having structure around communication and collaboration. For example, people can stop by each other’s offices throughout the day, meet at the water cooler/coffee machine, and look over each other’s shoulders.
People tend to develop their own communication rules on a remote team without the right collaboration tools — and processes for using them — in place. We’re not exactly talking about the wild west here — people aren’t showing up at colleagues’ houses to ask them about the status of a particular document. But if one person’s preferred method of collaborating is email and another’s is a phone call, things can fall through the cracks. When these rules don’t mesh with the way other team members work, miscommunication and errors ensue.
Loneliness is another side-effect of full-time remote work, with 16% of employees in the Buffer survey citing it as a top challenge. As much as we’d like to be home, it is nice being in the office with friends and colleagues. The workplace is where many people experience the bulk of their social interactions, and 70% of employees say having friends at work is one of the most crucial elements of happy working life.
With a decentralized team, you need to compensate for the fact that team members aren’t bumping into one another in the breakroom or having casual conversations that help them get to know each other and feel like a part of the team. If you’re not intentional about this, people tend to work in silos, develop a sense of isolation, and disconnect from the workplace and the team.
Using a combination of communication tools, including video conferencing, instant messaging, email, and social events designed for remote teams, you can replicate being on-site as much as possible and create a company-wide standard for when to use them. This helps establish expectations for how team members should interact while providing a sense of unity.
Not Being Able to Unplug
According to the Buffer study, the number-one struggle for remote workers is not being able to unplug, with 27% of respondents citing this as a challenge.
While many managers worry that people won’t work enough while working remotely, typically, the opposite is true, and it can become a big problem. Remote workers can burn out quickly when they feel like they’re always on the clock.
Combining the ability to unplug with flexible schedules is tough — especially when working with coworkers in different time zones.
Encouraging people to establish set hours and embracing a “schedule, don’t send” policy for messages outside of those hours can go a long way toward alleviating the pressure to shut off work outside of working hours. So too can investing in technology that automates much of the time-consuming, manual work that accountants handle daily, weekly, and monthly.
Uniting Your Team
Building a solid remote work strategy comes with many challenges. To be successful, it’s crucial to invest in technology and develop strategies to help you overcome these challenges. With the right technology in place and a plan to leverage it effectively, you will be well on your way to creating a unified accounting team that can help reach the organization’s goals while fostering a healthy environment for employees.
FloQast promotes — and facilitates — a “collaborate anywhere” environment accounting teams need to work as a single, unified virtual team regardless of where employees are physically located.
Whether leaving review notes or sending Slack messages, conducting your month-end close, or completing your annual audit, FloQast ensures accountants have the tools needed to collaborate while in the office, working from home, or some combination of the two.
By organizing common workflows, automating manual processes, and improving team collaboration, accounting teams can focus on what matters most, including turning work off at a reasonable time.