This week we take some time to review a popular topic considering our current situation, working remotely. For High Rock, this has been an easy transition thanks to our use of cloud-based technology. As we continue to grow, we have employees both nationally and around the world. So who better to ask about the remote experience than our Accounting Guru, Cait McGowan who is based in Australia:

WFH has become a common acronym in today’s pandemic and alternative working arrangements. While most of us automatically go to defining it as “Working from Home,” – some employers who are new to the cloud-based storage and tech-oriented communication see it more as “What a Freaking Hassle.”

This global health crisis has challenged our historical business models to be more innovative and find new (and some not so new) ways to stay linked through technology. There are a handful of apps that allow us to stay connected and interactive with our teams/clients virtually – completely compliant with the social distancing 6ft/2m rule! But, sadly, this transition has not come as quickly for all businesses and individuals. For some, the challenges arise from understanding what products are out there and how they are used. For others, it is the cloud-based integration and the fear of relying solely on an intangible, tech product. When talking to business owners and decision-makers, the key areas of concern are primarily around: communication, accountability, and productivity.

However, if businesses can overcome these concerns and obtain an understanding of what products are available to assist and ease the transition, operations can continue as usual in an otherwise challenging environment. Businesses can keep running their day-to-day operations. Employees can continue working and earning a living. It seems like a pretty win-win situation, right?

So, as an international contractor living in Australia working with a US firm – High Rock Accounting (HRA)…here are a few things that work (and do not work) for my teams and me.

1. Find a communication platform that works to your needs and stick with it. I’ve recently found the most success with platforms that integrate with Microsoft Outlook, such as Slack and RingCentral (which is partnered with Zoom). While learning new technology can often be difficult, finding versatile platforms that adapt to different day-to-day needs (instant messaging, calls, video chat, screen sharing, etc.) can make a huge difference in ensuring that we’re accountable to our teams and our clients. Once you find the one that works for you, stick with it. Ensure that your team knows where and when communication is expected and lead by example.

What has worked?

HRA, we have a #schedules thread within Slack that we use to check in with the team when you start your day, anytime you need to be away from your computer and to bid farewell to the team when you sign-off for the evening. We also use Slack or RingCentral to host video conference calls for any of our discussions, internal or external. By encouraging this alternative form of “face-to-face” communication, we hope to reduce the often-robotic feel of cloud-based interaction.

What have been the challenges? 

It does not always work the way we want it to. From difficulties in calendar integration to connectivity issues, I have seen it all. But the beauty of using both of these platforms is that there is always a work-around…it just often takes a little more patience than I have before my second, sometimes third, cup of coffee. So, patience is key here. With time it all gets a little bit easier.

2. Set realistic goals and track progress to achieving them. Productivity tracking has been one of the significant focus areas when discussing the WFH concept with decision-makers. While we all trust that our teams have the professional responsibility and internal compass to guide and ensure that we’re meeting deadlines and using our time-efficient and effectively – sometimes things happen. At HRA, we have found integrated platforms that help alert us when we are nearing or have missed a deadline but also provide statistics for areas of success. ActiveCollab allows date-oriented tasks to be assigned with the ability to detail the individual tasks, when it’s due, and who is responsible for each. The ActiveCollab Timer desktop add on then allows the individual to track the time spent on each of these tasks, which is then collated into the individual’s “timesheet” for the day.

What has worked?

We find the utilization of this tool to be the easiest way to set and track individual and team progress on different projects. The Timer is an integrated way for us to run real-time productivity and profitability schematics for each of our projects and clients. Plus, who wants to manually track their time and enter it into yet another program? The integration of these steps makes the daily/weekly/monthly reporting much less cumbersome.

What have been the challenges? 

Using too many programs that have these capabilities can often be confusing. If you have different programs to perform the day-to-day and month-end reporting, it can get confusing as to which platform needs to have detailed steps and which needs to have the high-level project. A detailed Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) process will help to eliminate any redundancies when different platforms overlap and help guide team members to where the information should be collated and the expectations around it.

3. Be flexible. What works for you may not work for another person on your team. This can be anything from the environment where we set up our WFH station, to the hours of the day we’re most productive, to the form of communication we respond best to. Keeping this in mind and allowing a sense of personal responsibility around establishing these boundaries will help harbor a more efficient and productive atmosphere.

What has worked?

Providing the individual the ability to find what works for them and establishing boundaries around that allows each person to figure out when and where they provide the most productive, quality work. We are a firm believer in employee morale – a happy team member, working in an environment and timeframe that suits their personality and lifestyle will provide higher quality work in a more efficient timeframe. Living outside the normal boundaries established by society’s expectation of the nine-to-five routine may be scary at first. But the transition to an employee-centric working atmosphere will have more positive effects in the long-term.

What have been the challenges? 

If you are a firm with remote workers across the States or even across the world like we are, time zones can often be the most significant difficulty that we face when trying to arrange catch-ups amongst the teams. Finding an overlapping time that works for a majority of the team and committing to a daily or weekly meeting provides an established time for questions and communication. Plus, it is also just a nice time to see the faces of the colleagues you may have been accustomed to working next to before isolation and social distancing were the way of life.

The transition from brick-and-mortar to cloud-based operations can be frustrating and challenging, especially if it is not the way you’re used to running your business. The business world is continually evolving and adapting to these changes sooner rather than later can be the differentiating point between a business surviving and a business thriving during these trying times. Hopefully, by initiating some of these processes or programs into your day-to-day operations, you can remove the hassle from WFH and move towards a more harmonic working environment.

So, what is the first step in moving to a more agile and remote workspace? Sit down, draw it out, and decide what you want to achieve through this transition. Is it ease of communication? Investigate the different platforms available and find the one that suits your needs in the price range you can afford. Is it accountability? Decide how you measure an individual or team’s output and what kind of tracking is necessary to ensure goals and targets are met. Or is it overall productivity? Determine what boundaries you are going to set and how you, as the business owner or decision-maker, can demonstrate the necessary traits to make WFH a success.

This week we take some time to review a popular topic considering our current situation, working remotely. For High Rock, this has been an easy transition thanks to our use of cloud-based technology. As we continue to grow, we have employees both nationally and around the world. So who better to ask about the remote experience than our Accounting Guru, Cait McGowan who is based in Australia:

WFH has become a common acronym in today’s pandemic and alternative working arrangements. While most of us automatically go to defining it as “Working from Home,” – some employers who are new to the cloud-based storage and tech-oriented communication see it more as “What a Freaking Hassle.”

This global health crisis has challenged our historical business models to be more innovative and find new (and some not so new) ways to stay linked through technology. There are a handful of apps that allow us to stay connected and interactive with our teams/clients virtually – completely compliant with the social distancing 6ft/2m rule! But, sadly, this transition has not come as quickly for all businesses and individuals. For some, the challenges arise from understanding what products are out there and how they are used. For others, it is the cloud-based integration and the fear of relying solely on an intangible, tech product. When talking to business owners and decision-makers, the key areas of concern are primarily around: communication, accountability, and productivity.

However, if businesses can overcome these concerns and obtain an understanding of what products are available to assist and ease the transition, operations can continue as usual in an otherwise challenging environment. Businesses can keep running their day-to-day operations. Employees can continue working and earning a living. It seems like a pretty win-win situation, right?

So, as an international contractor living in Australia working with a US firm – High Rock Accounting (HRA)…here are a few things that work (and do not work) for my teams and me.

1. Find a communication platform that works to your needs and stick with it. I’ve recently found the most success with platforms that integrate with Microsoft Outlook, such as Slack and RingCentral (which is partnered with Zoom). While learning new technology can often be difficult, finding versatile platforms that adapt to different day-to-day needs (instant messaging, calls, video chat, screen sharing, etc.) can make a huge difference in ensuring that we’re accountable to our teams and our clients. Once you find the one that works for you, stick with it. Ensure that your team knows where and when communication is expected and lead by example.

What has worked?

HRA, we have a #schedules thread within Slack that we use to check in with the team when you start your day, anytime you need to be away from your computer and to bid farewell to the team when you sign-off for the evening. We also use Slack or RingCentral to host video conference calls for any of our discussions, internal or external. By encouraging this alternative form of “face-to-face” communication, we hope to reduce the often-robotic feel of cloud-based interaction.

What have been the challenges? 

It does not always work the way we want it to. From difficulties in calendar integration to connectivity issues, I have seen it all. But the beauty of using both of these platforms is that there is always a work-around…it just often takes a little more patience than I have before my second, sometimes third, cup of coffee. So, patience is key here. With time it all gets a little bit easier.

2. Set realistic goals and track progress to achieving them. Productivity tracking has been one of the significant focus areas when discussing the WFH concept with decision-makers. While we all trust that our teams have the professional responsibility and internal compass to guide and ensure that we’re meeting deadlines and using our time-efficient and effectively – sometimes things happen. At HRA, we have found integrated platforms that help alert us when we are nearing or have missed a deadline but also provide statistics for areas of success. ActiveCollab allows date-oriented tasks to be assigned with the ability to detail the individual tasks, when it’s due, and who is responsible for each. The ActiveCollab Timer desktop add on then allows the individual to track the time spent on each of these tasks, which is then collated into the individual’s “timesheet” for the day.

What has worked?

We find the utilization of this tool to be the easiest way to set and track individual and team progress on different projects. The Timer is an integrated way for us to run real-time productivity and profitability schematics for each of our projects and clients. Plus, who wants to manually track their time and enter it into yet another program? The integration of these steps makes the daily/weekly/monthly reporting much less cumbersome.

What have been the challenges? 

Using too many programs that have these capabilities can often be confusing. If you have different programs to perform the day-to-day and month-end reporting, it can get confusing as to which platform needs to have detailed steps and which needs to have the high-level project. A detailed Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) process will help to eliminate any redundancies when different platforms overlap and help guide team members to where the information should be collated and the expectations around it.

3. Be flexible. What works for you may not work for another person on your team. This can be anything from the environment where we set up our WFH station, to the hours of the day we’re most productive, to the form of communication we respond best to. Keeping this in mind and allowing a sense of personal responsibility around establishing these boundaries will help harbor a more efficient and productive atmosphere.

What has worked?

Providing the individual the ability to find what works for them and establishing boundaries around that allows each person to figure out when and where they provide the most productive, quality work. We are a firm believer in employee morale – a happy team member, working in an environment and timeframe that suits their personality and lifestyle will provide higher quality work in a more efficient timeframe. Living outside the normal boundaries established by society’s expectation of the nine-to-five routine may be scary at first. But the transition to an employee-centric working atmosphere will have more positive effects in the long-term.

What have been the challenges? 

If you are a firm with remote workers across the States or even across the world like we are, time zones can often be the most significant difficulty that we face when trying to arrange catch-ups amongst the teams. Finding an overlapping time that works for a majority of the team and committing to a daily or weekly meeting provides an established time for questions and communication. Plus, it is also just a nice time to see the faces of the colleagues you may have been accustomed to working next to before isolation and social distancing were the way of life.

The transition from brick-and-mortar to cloud-based operations can be frustrating and challenging, especially if it is not the way you’re used to running your business. The business world is continually evolving and adapting to these changes sooner rather than later can be the differentiating point between a business surviving and a business thriving during these trying times. Hopefully, by initiating some of these processes or programs into your day-to-day operations, you can remove the hassle from WFH and move towards a more harmonic working environment.

So, what is the first step in moving to a more agile and remote workspace? Sit down, draw it out, and decide what you want to achieve through this transition. Is it ease of communication? Investigate the different platforms available and find the one that suits your needs in the price range you can afford. Is it accountability? Decide how you measure an individual or team’s output and what kind of tracking is necessary to ensure goals and targets are met. Or is it overall productivity? Determine what boundaries you are going to set and how you, as the business owner or decision-maker, can demonstrate the necessary traits to make WFH a success.