What Is Your Process for Working Remotely?
Post by: Arianna Campbell, Director
In early 2020, before the arrival of COVID-19 in the U.S., nearly 7 million people (3.4% of the population) were working remotely. Now, as we’re more than halfway through the year, that number has grown by leaps and bounds. It’s an acceleration of a trend that was already happening, and remote work is here to stay for many professionals and firms.
According to Accounting Today, 88% of firms with 50 or more full-time employees are planning to allow people to work from home permanently. But now that we’re settling into the “new normal” of remote work, many firms realize they need to adapt their processes for their new way of working.
Process is a top challenge
Earlier this summer, we surveyed members of our Boomer Technology Circles to ask about the top challenges their firms were facing. We anticipated that technology would be the biggest issue for firms who suddenly had to support 100% of their staff working from home. In fact, the majority of our members identified process as their #1 challenge, with 81% of our members citing it as their top concern.
Many of these firms had standardized, digitized processes that worked well when people were working in the office. However, that structure took a hit when people weren’t in the office.
Now is the time to focus on process improvement
Over the past few months, many firms were just trying to get through the extended tax season and help clients navigate shutdowns and government assistance programs. Extended wait times, bottlenecks, and other breakdowns in your firm’s processes may have seemed like something you could address once everyone was back in the office. Here’s why it’s crucial to address process issues now.
1. The transition to remote work uncovered friction
Many firms were already supporting a few full-time remote employees before COVID-19 hit. However, few were prepared to have the majority of their staff working from home all at once.
The pandemic likely uncovered workarounds you didn’t notice when everyone was in the office. While those workarounds are fresh in your mind, take note of what isn’t working and look for ways to improve.
2. Remote work is here to stay
Some people in your firm can’t wait to get back to the office. Others feel that working from home increased their productivity while reducing commute times and expenses. You need processes that work whether people are in the office, at home or working somewhere else entirely.
Remember, process improvement is continuous – you’re never done with it. Figure out what your clients need and what the work you do needs to look like in the next six to 12 months and find a way to move forward.
3. New processes are necessary for sustaining new habits
When you reflect on what you’ve learned from this time and how things have changed, there are likely some areas in which you don’t want things to go back to the way they were. Maybe you realized that you don’t want to travel as much as you did before, and virtual meetings are more productive than you would have imagined. Perhaps you finally achieved paperless workflows, digital organizers, and electronic signatures and hope never to return to rummaging through piles of paper on your desk.
Whatever the new benefits you’ve uncovered, you need to build new processes to support those gains and reinforce new habits.
4. Your clients are depending on you
Now is an excellent time to take what you’ve learned from delivering services remotely and help your clients do the same. You know their business and industry better than anyone, and you can help them through this journey.
Establish a process for identifying the clients who could use your help in this area. Align your clients with ways you can provide value. If you don’t, you’ll be missing out on a key opportunity to serve them.
5. Process improvement strengthens teams
The people in your firm are looking to their leaders to find out which direction the firm is headed. Are you hoping the current situation will pass by quickly so you can go back to the way things are? Or are you embracing the future and looking for new ways of doing things?
When your team understands expectations and has processes that help them know where they fit in the organization, your team will be stronger.
6. Process needs to keep up with technology
Has your firm implemented new tech or sped up the adoption of new technologies in the past few months? Tools like Microsoft Teams, Zoom, electronic signatures, client portals, and more have been vital to allowing firms to continue serving clients and communicating with each other.
If you’re not updating your processes to keep up with the changes in technology, they will quickly fall out of alignment. Now is the time to maximize your processes and technology while keeping your people in mind.
Remember, these are not normal work-from-home circumstances. We’re all enduring a global pandemic, and people have a variety of situations currently happening at home. Some we may be aware of, and others that we are not. It’s essential to keep this in mind and understand that productivity may be impacted as a result. Don’t put off process improvement until everyone is back in the office, as that day may never come. Remote work is here to stay, so evaluate your current processes, prioritize the changes you need to make, identify your process improvement leaders and champions, and get started.
Are your processes effective, efficient and consistent?
We can help improve your firm’s processes by applying a unique blend of Lean Six Sigma with project, change and workflow management principles. Schedule a discovery call with one of our Solutions Advisors and get on the path to transforming your firm.
As a director for Boomer Consulting, Inc., Arianna Campbell helps accounting firms challenge the status quo by leading process improvement initiatives that result in increased profitability and client satisfaction. She also facilitates the development and cultivation of future firm leaders in The P3 Leadership Academy™ Academy. Internally, she blends concepts from Lean Six Sigma and leadership development to drive innovation and continuous improvement within the company. Arianna also enjoys the opportunity to share knowledge through regular contributions to the Boomer Bulletin and other industry-wide publications, as well as public speaking at industry conferences.