4 tips to keep staff engaged and productive while working remotely

Working remotely: love it or hate it, is here to stay. A movement fast-tracked by stay-at-home orders prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic, being able to do your job, from your home or other remote workspace, has been the lifeline for many individuals and businesses.

However, it has not come without its challenges. Many staff can feel the effects of social isolation, lack of face-to-face supervision and access to information, and distractions of home (especially if they’re parents and its school holidays). If you’re a manager, you’re not just managing your staff needs – you’re also managing these issues for yourself. Managing your team in the same office or building can have its challenges, so imagine how amplified that can become when the bulk of your staff are working remotely.

Thankfully, as workplaces and technology evolve this is becoming easier. Workflow management software, ai audit, process automation and CRM for bookkeepers are lightening the load for many managers. So how can you reap the benefits of having a remote staff, and address the downfalls so it’s a win/win?

Technology is your friend. Automating repetitive manual tasks is key. And a simple, easy-to-use workflow management solution and collaboration platform is essential. Here we put together some simple steps you can implement in your accounting firm or bookkeeping practice to ensure your team not only survive but thrive productivity-wise while working offsite.Our tips for increasing productivity while working remotely:

1. Set expectations early on (communication is key)

For Jolene Lutman of Centegritymanaging a remote team was something she faced well before the pandemic. She says communication, executive support and relationship management are three key areas to focus on to successfully build a culture when the team isn’t in the same office.

“This requires constant work and communication each day to ensure staff are adequately trained and no bottlenecks are in place for staff to proceed with work. Communication channels between all parties should remain open and staff need to understand the importance of their contribution to the organisation.”

This is a crucial piece of the productivity puzzle. For clients, you must have clear boundaries about when and how you’re accessible. Whether it be that any communication outside the normal 9-5 business hours will wait, or phone calls after 6pm go straight to the message inbox – choose what works for you and your practice and stick to it.

When it comes to your team, similar rules apply. Of course, these boundaries may stretch and bend depending on deadlines for work or dealing with any unforeseen issues. However, having a standard set of rules about when and how they can contact you is helpful, not only to give you time to get productive yourself, but to ensure they’re prepared and ready with questions or queries when it matters.

2. Focus on outcomes, not activity

It’s true guys. Micro-managing just doesn’t work, period. But it’s non-existent when it comes to staff in remote environments. Giving your team the what (ie: clear, defined goals and the results you want to achieve), then letting them figure out the how is the best way to increase engagement and empower your employees to get to work. Pro tip: make sure they have the training and resources to complete the projects assigned to them.

3. Technology is your BFF

When you’re talking bookkeeping: having a checklist in your head is not an effective way to run a business – even if you are a sole trader. By having a standardised system in place, you ensure proper delivery of your services to clients. When it comes to managing a team, this also removes any confusion surrounding company processes and how their work should be completed. XBert’s Templates, Scheduling and Processes have been created to make standardising processes simple and effective.Using a workflow management tool is a simple way to ensure your team know exactly what’s expected of them, by when. There’s a plethora of these available on the market, so it’s important to do your research and ensure you use the software or program that is best suited for your industry. When it comes to bookkeeping, we here at XBert know what we’re doing.Questions you need to ask yourself when assessing your remote workflow: How will you assign and communicate tasks? What about flagging issues? Adding or reassigning workloads? And even tracking whether your team is doing the right tasks, at the right time.Email can only get you so far. For Jolene and hundreds of accountants and bookkeepers with remote teams, working with XBert has helped navigate these issues with ease.

“XBert has given me the reassurance that tasks are being managed and work prepared consistently for all clients irrespective on which staff member works on the client. XBert has saved my business, time and money while giving us confidence in our business data.”

The ability to create and track tasks is one thing (and necessary for every business) but when you add in ai-audit, analytics, business intelligence reports and more all in the one simple-to-use program, why would accountants and bookkeepers use anything else?

4. Celebrate success!

Whether it be daily or weekly, WIP (Work-In-Progress) meetings are vital – even virtually – to ensure nothing slips through the cracks, your team feel seen and heard (and there’s no major slacking off). Generally held on a Monday morning, they can be used to celebrate little wins along the way, talk out and brainstorm for any upcoming projects and problem-solve as issues arise while working on current projects.They key is to do these regularly. Having a centralised system where you and your team can track progress, flag issues, create and reassign tasks if need be, is an excellent way to ensure people stay on track between WIPs. That’s why we created XBert’s Work board. This allows you to be engaged with your team no matter where they are, track the progress of work, ask questions and collaborate – without jumping in and out of different software systems.Pro tip: No-one likes a Debbie Downer, especially in these times. Combat the feeling of solitude by shouting out the wins consistently (even if they’re the small ones). Employees are more likely to feel engaged, connected and motivated when they’re part of something bigger than themselves.

Manage your remote team easily with XBert

XBert is the most comprehensive audit and workflow tool built for bookkeepers.The sophisticated AI Audit, coupled with clever task and workflow management solutions will not only save you time, they'll help you create a smooth, streamline system that helps you and your remote team work more efficiently, knowing exactly what needs to be done, by when. Never worry about visibility across your practice workflow again.But that's just the beginning. With XBert's extensive feature set, you will:

  • Sleep better knowing your client files are clean and healthy.
  • Have effortless visibility over the size and complexity of your client files.
  • Stop stressing about client retention with White-labelled Client Consoles
  • Free up time, and have the systems in place, to scale your business.

Start a free trial with XBert and discover why it’s the ultimate practice productivity tool for accounting professionals.

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