Best Practices for Managing a Remote Accounting Team

Tim Sines

How do you effectively manage a remote accounting team?

That’s the million-dollar question.

But, while it can pose a challenge, it’s not an impossible question to answer. In recent years, especially as a result of the pandemic, many accounting firms have now switched from in-person to a remote or even a hybrid arrangement where employees choose when or if they work in the office.

Most modern workers today actually prefer working remotely because of its flexibility. And fortunately, there are also plenty of tools to support a team that works remotely. This gives managers the ability to oversee projects and ensure that they’re meeting the needs of their staff, their organization, and their clients.

However, despite how eager your staff may be to adopt and maintain a remote work environment, your success is secured by developing systems that ensure your team’s ongoing productivity. Managing a remote team may require a lot of mental adjustments on your part, as well. If you’re coming from a traditional background, you must make the mental switch from working in person where you can see everyone every day and are able to establish a familial-like bond, to working remotely, where you rarely if ever see your team in person. And if you’ve hired new employees after your firm has gone remote, you may never actually meet those employees face to face. That switch can be quite an adjustment for any manager.

Despite how eager your accounting staff may be to adopt and maintain a remote work environment, your success is secured by developing systems that ensure your team's ongoing productivity. Click To Tweet

Managing a remote team can be done successfully if you have the right tools, processes, and mindset. In this guide, we’ll discuss how to effectively manage your accounting team remotely.

Set Expectations

The first step to your success is to set expectations for remote work. It’s imperative that everyone is on the same page when it comes to work responsibilities, specifically, what’s expected of them and what they can expect from you. If your entire team is shifting from in-person to remote, they’ll also need a shift to their mindset. Working remotely requires a different set of arrangements than working in person.

It’s important to create a realistic and considerate timeline for multi-step and multi-person processes. If more than one person is going to be involved in the process then there should be a set of deadlines that communicate who is responsible for what and when.

Managing a remote accounting team

Make Communication a Top Priority

Speaking of communication, you must standardize how you share information and resources within your team. As mentioned above, a remote team cannot expect constant synchronous communication. What could have been resolved by a five-minute conversation in person may take 24 business hours remotely.  This is especially true if you are working with team members across multiple time zones. And, depending on the way that your office is set up, it may be unrealistic to expect that everyone will be working at the same time.

For these reasons, set standard expectations for how you wish to communicate with the team.  Do you have a preference for how your team members communicate with each other? If you don’t already it’s a good idea to start now. Do you prefer email, chat, video calls, or phone calls? Each method has its own set of pros and cons.

Email is a great way to share information that can easily be archived for later reference. However, the inbox can be an overwhelming place. The average office worker receives over 100 emails each day and it’s easy for emails to get lost.

Chat is perfect for quick and casual communication between team members. However, chat is not good for easy reference because specific messages can get lost in the flurry of messages back and forth.

Video calls are great for face-to-face interactions and are almost as good as being in person. However, video calls may suffer from network instability and can lead to a frustrating experience.

Phone calls are an oldie but goodie because this communication medium is familiar and easy to do. However, phone calls can lack the face-to-face benefits of video calls, and rely on someone taking notes for later reference.

A benefit of the remote work environment is that you don’t have to limit yourself to one type of communication channel. You can use different communication channels for different purposes. For example, you can use chat for quick questions and you can use email to disseminate team-wide or company-wide information.

Whatever method you choose, be sure to share communication procedures with your team so that everyone knows which channels to use and what is expected of them in terms of communication.

Focus on Culture and Team Building

When you work remotely it’s imperative that you develop and/or maintain a company culture.

What’s company culture?

Company culture is made up of the attitudes, behaviors, and values that define your company. It’s your values in action. The more you can define your company culture, the more engaged and productive your staff will become.

Unfortunately, many companies lose their culture when they go remote. It’s difficult to maintain a strong sense of corporate identity when everyone on your team is working from their offices,  living rooms, bedrooms, etc. However, you can build a solid culture with a remote team. Here are some of the best ways to do so:

  • Encourage everyone to share their feedback.
  • Celebrate team and company wins with the entire team.
  • Define or refine your company values.
  • Ensure that your team understands your values.
  • Look for ways to reinforce your values in positive and meaningful ways with your team.
  • Meet regularly (at least once a month) for fun and implement team building activities and social events.

Prioritize Trust Building

Working remotely requires a lot of trust for everyone. You must trust your team members to get their work done even though you can’t physically see them do it.

Be transparent in your communication with your team so that they can trust you as their manager. Without transparency, your team members may jump to the wrong conclusions about what’s happening in your workplace. This can lead to gossip and job insecurity, and lead directly away from trust.

Here are a few additional ways you can build trust with your remote teams include:

  • Don’t micromanage, instead allow your team members to work autonomously towards a set goal
  • Prevent burnout by ensuring that your team members take adequate time off
  • Show your team members that you appreciate them by providing positive feedback and public recognition

Managing a remote accounting team

Develop Processes

Whether remote or in-person, it’s true that each member of your team has tasks and deadlines, and you’re responsible for keeping your team on track. To do so, you need to develop processes. It’s the secret to successfully managing a remote accounting team. By developing and implementing systems, you ensure that your team will get the work done. Systems are made up of two or more processes. And each process can be broken down even further into multiple steps, or tasks.

The good news is that you can automate many of these tasks to reduce your team’s workload.

With automation, a team member doesn’t have to devote a ton of time to completing an essential but repetitive task. They are freed up to handle higher-level tasks that can help grow your accounting firm. Automation also improves team collaboration by avoiding redundancy or miscommunication.

You can use our project management and accounting billing software to develop systems for your team. With Mango accountant practice software, you can build a workflow that meets the needs of your team and create custom templates to go with each project.

Mango project management will give you real-time access to every project your team is working on, it will show you what’s due, what’s overdue, what’s upcoming, and who’s working on what. You can use this all-in-one management tool to stay informed and organized so that you can stay on top of every task as it happens.

Schedule your free demo with Mango Practice here.

Having an accounting project management tool is an essential part of managing a remote team.

Document Your Processes

In addition to having good processes, it’s also necessary to document your standard operating procedures, or SOPs, in writing. SOPs are a set of instructions that describe how to complete a task. It’s important to develop your own SOPs because there may be more than one way to complete a task, and some ways may be less efficient. Your team should be on the same page.

Final Thoughts

When you manage a remote accounting team, you must develop processes to support your team and ensure your firm’s ultimate success. Implement the above strategies to become a better manager.

Mango can help with that! Sign up for a free demo of Mango Practice Management here.

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