What are the biggest challenges for firms moving to a remote office model, and how can they address them?
Remote Office Model Calls for Flexibility
August Aquila, AQUILA Global Advisors ([email protected]): It is said with challenge comes opportunity. The COVID-19 pandemic has created an unprecedented level of business disruption. Navigating this disruption will determine how successful firms will be after this crisis.
Remote work requires flexibility and adaptation. These ideas will help you:
- Train staff to work with clients in a virtual setting.
- Become an expert using collaboration tools. There are many collaboration tools available, such as Zoom or Box. Pick one or two tools and become proficient.
- Keep an eye on cash flow. While COVID-19 is a health issue now, it can soon become a financial problem.
- Remain agile and optimistic. This is an opportunity to innovate.
Embracing Change Leads to Success
Roman Kepczyk, Right Networks ([email protected]): The firms most challenged by the move to the remote office model at the start of the pandemic were those with leadership who resisted allowing personnel (other than auditors) to work remotely. Those firms were unprepared from both a process and technology mindset. They haphazardly responded with subpar “Band-Aid” solutions and management processes resulting in decreased productivity and a yearning to get back to the office.
The exact opposite was true for firms that adopted a formal remote work program and implemented proper technology, which is our recommendation for firms. This means using cloud technology to provide a consistent work experience regardless of location and proactively adopting digital workflow, client collaboration and engagement management tools that facilitate effective virtual work.
Expectations, Technology and Culture
Jennifer Wilson, Convergence Coaching ([email protected]): The biggest challenges for firms moving to remote work are a lack of clear expectations, not leveraging technology and not staying close to their people.
Firm leaders can mitigate the expectations gap by carefully defining expectations for accessibility versus working hours, expected response times and clarifying how success is measured — being sure to provide flexibility for individual circumstances.
They can improve remote technology by surveying staff about challenges and investing in the right systems to improve speed, enhance communications, ensure their people have the right equipment and be clear about reimbursement guidelines.
Firm leaders can improve team closeness by assigning each leader to check in with specific people at least weekly, creating regular connectivity points (including small group meetings) and developing fun activities that appeal to a broad audience.
Read more on this Growth Strategies Winter Issue of Consultants Corner on page 19.
About Bonnie Ruszczyk
With 25 years of marketing experience, Bonnie Buol Ruszczyk helps professional services firms develop unique strategic marketing that will help them reach their growth and awareness goals. This can take many forms including serving as a fractional or part-time CMO, creating strategic marketing plans for the firm as a whole and the niches it serves, helping hire and manage internal marketing teams and much more.
She has been recognized as one of Accounting Today’s Top 100 Most Influential People (2012, 2013, 2016) and One to Watch (2011), Volunteer of the Year by the Association for Accounting Marketing and one of CPA Practice Advisor’s Most Powerful Women in Accounting (2015, 2016). She is also an AAM board member, a former president of its Atlanta chapter and marketing committee chair for CPA Consultants’ Alliance. Bonnie quite literally wrote the book on online marketing for accounting firms, Take Your Marketing Online: Proven Ways to Grow Your Firm in the Digital Age, at the request of the AICPA. She also contributed a chapter to Bridging the Gap: Strengthening the Connection Between Current and Emerging Leaders in the CPA Profession and is a regular contributor and quote source for Accounting Today, Entrepreneur, US News & World Report, CPA Practice Advisor and other industry-related publications and websites.