There is every indication that remote working will remain in place for many firms and industries. The new ways of working introduced since the pandemic has created opportunities and risks for many companies.
So, it is no surprise to see the considerable focus on improving remote working facilities and what is expected in the remote working environment.
Of course, many businesses were already moving towards a remote working environment. A 2018 study by Converge Coaching indicates many firms were moving to this way of working.
Some of the key highlights from the survey results include:
Given these were the findings before the first lockdown occurred, it is reasonable to assume that the use of remote working is greater. Industries and organizations were already moving towards this way of working, but now, it is an integral part of the everyday work process.
This is true for accountants and the accountancy sector in general.
Why Accountants Need to be Able to Work from Home
Accountants and accountancy firms need to implement measures that enable accountants to work from home or remotely.
There is a need to meet fresh challenges
No one is sure how we will continue to battle with the pandemic or any fresh challenges that come in the future. Some people might think it’s unlikely that a new imposition will fall upon the world in the manner of Covid-19, but few would have predicted the impact of the pandemic.
So, businesses and professionals need to be more flexible and ready to take on whatever the world throws at them. Accountants are no different, and having flexible work practices makes a company and professionals more robust at dealing with new issues.
Remote working flexibility provides an advantage
Every company needs to consider the business impact of decisions, and remote working creates opportunities.
If an organization can implement working from home practices that ensure no drop in quality of work, they should develop this way of working. Companies that can significantly reduce or remove rental fees and the costs associated with having a significant physical presence gain a considerable advantage over those costs.
When every penny is vital, reducing costs without compromising on the finished output is critical, and remote working provides this opportunity for accountancy firms.
Remote working should make employees happier
While this cannot be said for every employee, and there are always individual circumstances to consider, on the whole, remote working benefits a great number of workers.
Remote working is said to:
When clients are happy, allied to lower costs, firms have a greater chance of enjoying profits.
There are challenges for remote accountants to overcome, but with robust home-working practices, it is possible for firms to support their employees.
Three Ways to develop a positive remote working process
Three pillars of remote working that need to be in place for accountants include:
- A virtual infrastructure that ensures employees have the proper hardware and software tools to do their job
- Ensure remote workers connect with the company, colleagues, and clients
- A proactive approach to creating a work-life balance that helps employees be at their best
Managing the employee experience (EX) is a valuable way to focus on these three pillars and can be the platform for remote accountancy success.
Eight Ways to Ensure Accountants Communicate Effectively with Colleagues, Superiors, and Clients
Communication is essential in all industries, and when people talk face to face, it is often easier to express meaning and intent. By the same token, communication is harder or more ambiguous when undertaken online, but there are ways accountants can communicate effectively with clients and their companies.
Some quick tips to consider include:
- Make the intention of work clear
- Do not assume people understand what you mean, or expect from them
- Avoid vague words or words which are confusing
- Confirm the What, When, and How associated with work
- Have guidelines relating to communicating virtually
- Confirm expectations and flexibility for all professionals, no matter where they are working
- Invest in software that assists communication
- Invest in training for the chosen software
By working through these steps, communication becomes simpler and more effective.
The Right Software is Essential for Accountants
While many elements are important with remote working, the correct software is crucial.
Consistency is crucial
Accountancy agencies must ensure all relevant employees have access to the same software. If an employee cannot work for whatever reason and a colleague needs to take over their work, the handover process must be straightforward.
The process is simplified when everyone uses the software. This is also true for the reporting process.
When every accountant, in-office or working remotely, accesses the software and works similarly, reports are universal. This makes it easier to analyze changes over time, departments with departments, and create industry comparisons.
Consistency is beneficial for all in-house collaboration; it helps develop an ongoing relationship with clients. When clients become used to reports and information in a particular format, it is easier to maintain and manage this working relationship.
Compatibility is fundamental
A similar point to consistency is compatibility. Nothing moves forward if every accountant uses a different software solution that other professionals or clients cannot access.
While you don’t need to use the same programs as every client, you should ensure there is at least compatibility between the systems. This saves time and improves effectiveness.
Ease of use is at the heart of good software
Individuals work at their level, so what one accountant finds suitable in a software program might be challenging for others.
However, there is usually an understanding of what software programs are easy to use and which ones are frustrating.
The additional outlay is usually justifiable if one program is more expensive but facilitates a far more dependable EX.
Training needs to make a difference
If there are concerns about finding a suitable software solution, the training on offer is vital. Knowing that help is available to get users up to speed is excellent comfort for businesses, and it will help firms deliver a consistent and dependable service.
Accountancy is Moving Forward in a Digital Age
Removing physical paperwork greatly assists remote working, and the UK is moving towards a digital tax environment.
The Making Tax Digital (MTD) movement is fully operational
April 2019, UK businesses that operated above the VAT threshold of £85,000 have submitted returns in a digital format
April 2022, all UK businesses which are VAT registered must comply with MTD regulations – this phase will account for more than one million small businesses
April 2024, Making Tax Digital for Income Tax Self Assessment comes into effect. This impacts landlords and sole traders who enjoy a gross income of more than £10,000 each year. Initially, this deadline was April 2023 but has been extended
While all these firms and employees have had to submit VAT or tax returns, the MTD is a different hurdle to overcome. There will be many individuals and firms who have managed accounts to this point but who struggle with electronic forms and digital formats.
This creates more opportunities for accountants and accountancy firms to provide digital tax return services. With digital invoices and records replacing paper forms, it is easy for accountants to work anywhere without compromising on the standard of work.
So, remote working goes hand-in-hand with digital accountancy. Accountancy firms should be aware of this tremendous opportunity to generate more work, and remote working fits neatly into meeting the demands of new and existing clients.
Security is non-negotiable with digital and remote accountancy
While there are benefits of remote working for accountants, some challenges need to be acknowledged and tackled.
Security is always vital when it comes to important business documents and finances. Traditionally, accountants would hold vital files in secure cabinets or have security protocols dictating how and when people access confidential files.
The nature of securing essential files is different in the digital era, but no less important.
Cyberattacks are an issue to consider
The more places data and information is readable or stored, the more opportunities for hackers and thieves to access it.
Remote working is of benefit, but creating more entry points to the data creates risk.
Cyber security is an essential factor for all businesses to consider. There is no excuse for not offering a robust service from major agencies to sole traders and self-employed accountants.
With improved cloud security, remote working needn’t have to place files and documents at risk.
Solutions accountants must consider for their network and cloud systems include:
All these options are helpful, and a combination of secure tools creates a safe working environment.
A trail of users acts as a deterrent and way to evaluate improper conduct
While all the above methods have a role to play in securing digital data, there is no denying tracking when data is accessed and read is crucial. If an accountancy firm believes some employees might gain access to records in nefarious ways, this measure offers proactive and reactive solutions.
When accountants know their every move is measured, they see the risk of being caught doing something they shouldn’t is higher.
An accountancy agency that invests in this style of software solution offers greater trust to clients. They might also weed out unsuitable employees, and they’ll waste time investigating data misuse.
Spending money on security solutions can bring dividends in the long term
This is why many companies justify security expenditure, as it helps them save money and generate higher income.
Much like companies hire external accountants to reduce risk and enhance their chances of business success, accountancy firms can improve their chances of success by spending money on security.
With digital accountancy and tax records an essential business component, a secure employee experience is more productive for accountants.