Almost two years ago when I found out that my family was
relocating because of my husband’s job, I was extremely disappointed at the
thought of leaving the Boomer Consulting team. I was thrilled when I was
offered the opportunity to continue my current position from my new location.
This was the beginning of my journey to becoming a remote worker. My work
situation may be considered non-traditional by many in the accounting industry,
but changes in technology and firm culture are making flexible work arrangements
more mainstream. However, as I have experienced first-hand, transitioning to a
new way of working is a learning process for everyone involved. Here are a few
of the lessons that I have learned as I have moved from working in the Boomer
Consulting office in Manhattan, KS to my new location in North Carolina.
Support For Remote
Working Starts At The Top
The leadership of the company sets the example that others
will follow. Boomer Consulting, Inc. owners Gary Boomer, Sandra Wiley and Jim
Boomer understand that a workplace is not defined by physical boundaries. They
are united in their thinking that how
you work is more important than where you
work. This commitment to remote working is communicated to the Boomer
Consulting staff by investment in technology, continual training and support of
remote team members.
In addition, all three owners
are focused on the results of the work instead of micromanaging the process of
how the work is completed. Jim Boomer explains this in more detail in his
article, Build a Culture of Accountability in 2013:
"If employees are meeting
the goals that were outlined and agreed upon at the beginning of the quarter, it
doesn't really matter how many hours they put in or if they checked their
Facebook hourly. If employees are truly not working enough hours or if they are
seemingly wasting excessive amounts of time, the results will speak for
themselves. And results are what you're really after.”
This kind of leadership creates a firm culture that removes
many of the roadblocks to remote working. With support from the top, and the
technology to make it happen, remote working becomes a reality.
Remote Working Possible
When I moved, the hardware that I had at my desk in the
office was packed up and shipped to North Carolina (including laptop, two 24
inch monitors, printer/scanner/fax, laptop, webcam, desk phone, headset, etc.).
Since I do not have IT support on location, I set everything up myself – and I
am not tech savvy at all. This is a testament to the efforts of our Director of
Technology, Eric Benson, who faces the challenge of choosing hardware solutions
that are advanced enough to handle our needs but simple enough for remote
employees to understand and assemble. Eric has never seen my office, but in the
event that he did need to do any visual IT trouble shooting, we would use screen
sharing and/or video conferencing so he could see the issue. We continue to
find that moving further into the digital workplace drives innovation.
In addition to Boomer Consulting owned hardware, I use my
personal devices. My Android phone and tablet both have apps for company email,
inter-office instant messenger and our VOIP phone system. I use my mobile phone
for work related texts and standard phone calls as well. We are in the process
of moving to new platforms for our CRM and document storage systems and both of
these have apps that allow me to access information anytime anywhere. All firm
apps are password protected and our Exchange server settings require my phone
and tablet to be password protected. My devices time out after five seconds and
I cannot change the required password or timeout settings. I feel better
knowing that the firm data is protected by multiple passwords and other
security measures. I have found that the
convenience of being able to work from anywhere outweighs any hassle of having
to enter my password every time I use my personal devices.
Make or Break Remote Working
Support from leadership and integrated technology solutions are important but
communication is the glue that holds the team together. Communication builds team relationships,
strengthens firm culture, keeps processes running smoothly and allows the team
to provide a high level of client service.
When you have remote workers, it takes a proactive approach to keep the
lines of communication open.
There are several ways team members communicate here at
Boomer Consulting, Inc.:
- Staying in touch on a daily basis is a challenge
so it is important to find ways to "stop by” and say hello. We use our inter-office
instant messenger system as a quick way to say hello. This our virtual way of
dropping by someone’s desk to say good morning or to ask a quick question.
- For a consistent and intentional connection, we
have a weekly staff meeting when everyone on the team (including the owners) calls
in and shares updates and announcements.
- I have weekly one-on-one calls with each of my
supervisors (Jim Boomer and Sandra Wiley) via Skype. This face to face
interaction is an important part of our communication. It helps us connect on a
personal level in a way that is not possible by just talking on the phone. Being
able to read expressions and body language leads to clearer communication and
lessens chances for misinterpretations.
- We also use video conferencing for our quarterly
company strategic plan update meetings. Every 90 days we take time to make sure
that we are staying on track with our strategic plan for the year. Everyone on
the team participates and I join via video conference.
- While technology can bring us close together as
a team, nothing replaces in person meetings. I travel three times a year to meet
with the team and we arrange this around specific team events maximizing the
use of the time together.
Decisions Must Be Made
When I tell people that I work remotely, they say, "Oh, that
must be nice!” and stare off into space as they dream up pictures of lounging
on the couch, eating junk food and watching daytime television while a computer
sits neglected in a distant corner. This is not the reality. Working remotely
does not change your workload; it forces you to define your boundaries. Being able to log-on anytime from anywhere
challenges you to draw a line between work and life, between home and office,
between a cell phone and a CRM system, between an afternoon with your children
and one last email that you have to send to a client.
In my opinion, work/life definition is how you define where
work ends and where your personal life begins, and this is different than
work/life balance. Every person who is
employed has to make this decision to some degree, but as a remote worker, I
have found the gray area is almost infinite until you set your boundaries. This
is a personal decision, but it is one that must be made. By doing so, you can increase
your focus, become more efficient and increase your quality of work and life.
Over the past two years I have learned that being a remote
worker takes commitment from leadership, integrated technology solutions,
communication and work/life definition. As advances in technology continue to
push us towards a more digital workplace I look forward to learning how I can
continue to improve as a remote worker and bring more value to my team and our