As a completely virtual workforce since our founding, we have been passionately sharing our experiences with our clients and community for years. As many firms now face a forced entry into remote work, we thought we would take this opportunity to share our experiences as a completely virtual staff. In this series, we will explore 5 facets of remote work. We hope that our hard-won learnings will help your organizations adapt to this fluid landscape. Our first tip on leading a remote workforce comes from Sarah Johnson Dobek, founder and president of Inovautus Consulting and president of CPAsNET.
Leading a Remote Workforce
The crucible that is COVID-19 is challenging leaders to hold fast to their responsibilities and lead in a way like never before. If disruption has taught us anything, it’s that while we often cannot control our circumstances, we can control our response. These past few weeks you have been called to rise to new challenges at breakneck speed. I predict that this event will prove to be the tailwind that pushes the accounting profession in the right direction as it relates to rethinking the role that remote work and technology play in 21st-century business. Below are a few considerations for remote leadership.
Consider your measure of productivity
The stress of this situation is adding to an already difficult time of year. While remote work typically increases productivity, we are in strange times. Many employees are working from home for the first time, and some with several kids in tow! If you demand business-as-usual, you’ll run the risk of burning out your employees. As a profession, productivity and hours is still a core focus, but I encourage you to concentrate your people on deadlines, not hours. I am not suggesting you stop tracking hours; I’m encouraging you to put the priority on getting the work done. To adapt, firms should reconsider business hour requirements based on employee situations. Ask your people what they need to be successful and shift responsibilities to accommodate the workload. Your employees won’t forget what you are doing for them or their families.
We teach the importance of communication because we know many firms still struggle with it. During disruption it’s even more critical, especially if your staff is working remotely. Our team stretches from coast to coast, so we use technology to facilitate face-to-face communications and group meetings. We are big fans of Zoom. Their video capabilities allow our virtual team to communicate, train, and run our business internally and externally.
Above all, default to empathy and grace. Don’t assume your employees know you care or have heard your messages. There is a lot of noise surrounding your staff and a lot of uncertainty. Some directives or communications will get lost, which is why you need to communicate clearly and often.
Many of you offer great benefits during tax season to manage stress through wellness and connection. Being virtual can feel isolating. Don’t worry, the irony of that is not lost on me, given our social distancing. Build opportunities for people to connect outside of work. This could mean:
- Allowing more segue talk in meetings. The how are you doing, what’s going on-type of stuff is essential to sustaining connection.
- Create gathering opportunities. It could be a virtual lunch break on video or a corporate online yoga session.
- Encourage watercooler conversations on messaging platforms; start a meme contest, leverage those GIFS. A little laughter does wonders for morale.
- When it comes to wellness, consider a virtual fitness challenge and providing all employees access to a workout app to encourage breaks.
- Use your social media channels to show dedicated office spaces and work continuity
As a leader, you have plenty of opportunities to shine. Your employees depend on you to lead well, and your clients are watching how you handle this crisis. If you are part of a CPA association, I encourage you to network with other firms that are navigating the same challenges. If you are struggling to present communications to your staff or clients, we can help! Our FFCRA Toolkit helps accounting firms stay on top of critical communications with their staff and clients.
Stay safe. Stay healthy.