By: Matt Andersen, CPA, Founder of MD Andersen CPA, PA
Despite the popularity of remote work among workers, the transition from on-site to online work has not been easy for everyone. Remote work can keep workers safe, save money, and in some cases, increase productivity and revenue. But many workers struggle to remain engaged. Some supervisors struggle to manage their newly decentralized staff. And an over-reliance on online communication and coordination can lead to gaps and costly errors.
Despite all this, remote work can be effective for your business if you establish clear work expectations for all staff and provide the resources they need to meet those expectations. To keep employees engaged and company culture intact, you can develop and implement online morale, team-building exercises, and virtual events. To maximize productivity, you can provide group training and individual coaching on new work expectations and best communication practices.
If your business, like most others, has had to quickly adapt and move some or all of your operations online, here are three commonly overlooked challenges to consider:
With businesses making the move to shift operations, save money, and explore new revenue opportunities, long-term human resource initiatives like employee training, internal leadership pipelines, and diversity programs may have fallen by the wayside. Traditionally, these programs involve a great deal of face-to-face interaction, and in a newly virtual work environment, it can be hard to make up for that valuable one-on-one time.
Internal networking is critical to career advancement, and without sufficient opportunities to network and socialize, employees may become disengaged. Moreover, you may miss the chance to identify diverse, rising stars and train them for future leadership opportunities. Develop thoughtful ways to ensure that employees can continue to connect with each other despite working from their home office. With your management team, develop clear remote work evaluation standards that include employee leadership assessment. Work with HR to create online networking opportunities for junior employees and offer expanded training options. And communicate regularly with your team to help identify the leaders of tomorrow.
Transitioning your workforce to telework is not as simple as handing everyone a laptop and telling them to go home. For some workers, working online at home may be more complicated than working in the office, due to various environmental factors, or due to a disability. Some of your staff may require specialized equipment to work online. Others may need more time or specialized instruction to complete tasks they can carry out more quickly in-person.
You’ll need to make reasonable accommodations under the ADA to ensure that all of your employees can perform their best and that typically begins with a thorough assessment of your employee records. Before transitioning everyone to online work, work with HR to help guide differently-abled staff members through the transition, and develop customized supports that will help them thrive in a remote work environment. Be patient with your staff as they transition to their remote work environments, and remain in communication to identify areas of need, or equipment that will help them to remain focused and productive.
Cybersecurity is of the greatest importance during this time when everyone is in different places. Working from home poses risks to data of which many employees are unaware, and which they must be taught and trained to mitigate. IT experts have identified criminals attempting to exploit smart speakers to steal data. How secure is your VPN? Are your employees using their personal computers while working remotely? What additional risk can that add to your business? These are some of the things to consider while making the transition.
Now is the time to check in with your IT staff. Ensure that your technology is up to date and that you are protected from most cybersecurity threats. You must not only ensure that your IT staff are actively monitoring emerging vulnerabilities and threats, but also that your entire team is aware of the various IT security risks that exist in a work-from-home environment. Provide regular training to all employees, and work with IT and HR staff to develop protocols to check employee compliance periodically.
Working from home has been proven to be a viable option for most businesses. It can take little resources, protects staff, and can be quickly facilitated, but it does come with its own set of concerns to troubleshoot. Look at these challenges as something to overcome and stay in communication with your team to work out problems together. Given the dynamic environment of COVID-19, you should regularly review, update, and refine your remote work plan to ensure it meets your current operational and workforce needs. We can help you think through these issues and other relevant considerations as you shift more of your business operations online. Contact us today and let us help you craft the right remote work plan for your business!
Matt Andersen, CPA loves analyzing data, people, and businesses. He is passionate about helping entrepreneurial-minded clients achieve their goals, keep more money in their pockets, and live a higher quality of life. In addition to tax and accounting services, Matt provides one-on-one coaching for various topics including lifestyle entrepreneurship, advanced tax planning, and new business creation.