Personal Expense Reports: How Can I Get Remote Workers to File On Time?

Swinging by a coworker’s desk to drop off your personal expense reports might feel like a thing of the past. Many workplaces are expanding their remote work offerings in response to social distancing guidelines. A survey from Fishbowl found that more than half of employees across several major industries are working from home in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

As a manager, you may find yourself caught between competing needs. Your employees may be struggling to balance caring for family members and learning the ropes of working from home. Managers may want to be as accommodating as possible, but the finance department also needs expense report information to meet their own work requirements. Knowing what to let slide and when to hold firm can be a challenge.

>> Related: Remote Workforce Expense Policy Gaps Leave Employees Adrift <<

Whether you’re used to long-distance work relationships, or it feels weird not to see coworkers in person, take control of expense management by using these strategies to help employees submit expense reports on time.

Check in Regularly

Especially if your usual business operations have recently gone through major adjustments, employees might not see expense reports as a top to-do item. Workers who are newly working from home and balancing work with other priorities (e.g., homeschooling children) may need guidance on which tasks are essential and which can wait if needed.

Keep personal expense reports top-of-mind with a quick mention during your usual check-in. Make sure employees are clear about when to submit reports, how to access the system, and who is the point of contact if they have questions.

Clarify Benefits of Personal Expense Reports

Sometimes connecting one task to a larger goal can help improve compliance. Personal expense reports can feel like they don’t really affect anyone besides the employee. They’re the ones delaying their own reimbursement, right?

In reality, the finance team may need to stay current with expense reimbursement to avoid a bottleneck and potential cash flow issue later on. Checking expense reports may be a way to confirm that all employees have purchased essential equipment. Showing how expense information supports other operational goals can build a stronger sense of teamwork and boost compliance.

One other thing to keep in mind is that money is a stressful topic for some people. That stress can spill over into workplace expenses, too. Some employees hesitate to submit expenses because they feel unclear about workplace norms or what they’re allowed to spend. A solid expense policy can provide clarity. So can a personal check-in to remind an employee when (and why) you need this report, and to get to the bottom of any confusion that could be causing a delay.

>> Related: How to Manage Expense Reports More Effectively <<

Use an Easy Online Reporting System

Complicated, time-consuming paperwork is tough on anyone. The easier you can make expense report processes on your end, the more likely you’ll see strong compliance rates with employees.

Online expense reporting is often more convenient to use, because you can skip the printing, scanning, and mailing steps. Employees can complete personal expense reporting online and get them in front of your finance team in minutes.

Automate When Possible

Tasks can get tedious when you have to fill in granular, repetitive details over and over. Not only can this make expense reporting frustrating (or even tempt some employees to procrastinate), it can also increase the risk of errors. When you’re bored and frustrated at the thought of sifting through a pile of receipts, your concentration might slip.

Automating parts of expense reporting can reduce errors and save a lot of time. Expense reporting software can automatically categorize entries, for example. Digital receipt capture can save workers from having to read and type in every item.

Incentivize Timely Reporting

A little pick-me-up can go a long way. Keeping your team’s morale high, even when you’re working apart from one another, can pay back in increased productivity and loyalty.

Some companies are finding new ways to bring perks to employees working at home. Companies paying for entertainment packages for children may hope working parents can catch a breather, and hopefully make some progress on a project, while their kid happily watches Frozen II. A home office stipend can provide equipment employees need to work comfortably and effectively from home.

At TravelBank, we’ve seen companies save 30% on their travel budgets by using our rewards program to share savings with employees. Considering a similar approach to purchasing a laptop, software, or other work-from-home equipment might result in savings, as well as giving that extra incentive boost to submit reports promptly.

Employees put personal expense reports on the back burner for a variety of reasons, such as confusion or frustration with the process. Making online expense reporting simple, and making sure employees understand why this task is essential, can help you collect the information you need on time.