According to recent Stanford research the new “working-from-home economy,” which is likely going to continue for the unforeseen future, poses new challenges, and perhaps, new rewards. Roughly 42 percent of the U.S. labor force is now working from home full-time. Without the switch to working from home, the lockdown due to COVID likely could never have lasted. The economy would have collapsed. The stigma of working from home prior to this has disappeared and now the challenge is to get employees, systems and protocol in place to successfully support the new reality that firms and its clients face.
In an upcoming webinar on September 16, 2020, Larry Furr, chief product officer at Canopy, will offer insights and advice on what he has seen as effective and productive ways to transition to work-from-home and operate your firm remotely. You can register here.
Finding Comfort in the WFH Business Model
Managing an accounting firm requires keeping everyone on the same page. Practitioners need software and systems that will empower them and clients to easily work together at every step. When working from home, that need is magnified. Teams require tools to communicate effectively, track how time is being spent, and provide an ideal client experience on top of it all.
Firm owners that have multiple people working for a specific client need to keep the team organized. Traditional offices afforded the ability to walk down the hall to a co-worker’s office to ask questions, gain information and insight or assign tasks. With the WFH model, organization and managing tasks, time, documents and vital client information is no easy feat. But, with the right tools and workflows in place, success can be accomplished, and peace of mind can be had.
Key Areas that Indicate your Firm is Out of Date
Staying in touch with your clients should be as easy as a click. Cutting-edge firms keep track of all the communication between team members and clients from within one integrated system. Are you still sending emails without using a CRM? Are you still sending documents via snail mail?
Constantly calling and emailing clients may not be a sustainable system when practitioners need to keep casework progressing. Automating follow-up processes certainly helps. It is time to rethink how you communicate and accomplish tasks with clients. Think about leveraging technology that helps you set up and send client requests, then issues reminders at a frequency that works for you and your client. Those reminders will keep sending automatically until your client either completes the request or the time duration you designated expires. It sounds too easy, but this kind of system is what tech-savvy firms are using today.
With today’s technology, practitioners should find it easy to communicate and collaborate with clients. Data and records should be centralized, and clients should have easy access to documents as well as a secure portal for sending and receiving this information.
Top-notch firms provide clients with access to their own secure client portal account where they can:
- Make a payment
- eSign a document
- Send you questions directly
- View invoices
- Complete client requests
- Fill out the client organizer
- Upload files
Client portals cut down the amount of emails and phone calls you must field from your client as you work on their account. Not only will you be able to gather information from them more easily than ever, but they’ll feel like they’re always in the loop. Leveraging innovative technology is a win-win for practitioners and their clients.
Empower and Lead your Team from a Remote Work Environment
Not everyone can successfully work from home. Stanford found that only 51 percent, mostly managers, professionals and financial workers who can carry out their jobs on computers, reported being able to work from home at an efficiency rate of 80 percent or more. Aside from the basics such as proper equipment, facilities and internet capacity, the other influencing factor is having the right software and workflows in place to support them.
Nobody knows for sure, but until the COVID-19 vaccine comes out, society and businesses will have to become accustomed to working from home and it is up to firm owners to seek new technologies to turn a challenging situation into a rewarding solution.