Top Tips for Running Remote Finance and Accounting Teams

By Jessica Larkin

If the past year has taught us anything, it is that what we considered “normal” can be flipped on its head in an instant—including where and how we work. With many organizations shifting to fully remote, or at least operating with partially remote teams, corporate spend has changed and the finance and accounting team has never been more important.

In addition to pivoting budgets to accommodate for lack of travel and the work from home landscape, finance departments have needed to implement and adopt new technologies and train team members to keep up with the demands of a now remote role.

Finance Team Challenges in the Remote World

Many employees enjoy working from home as it offers them the opportunity to throw in a load of laundry, enjoy a more casual attire, and avoid time-consuming commutes. However, for high-functioning finance teams, remote work also has challenges that can impact productivity.

Work/Life Balance

Employee burnout is all too real and it’s also on the rise as Americans continue to work from home with little separation from their office space and living space. In fact, a survey from Mental Health America highlights that 75% of people have experienced burnout at work, with 40% stating they’ve experienced burnout during the pandemic. Further, Forbes highlights that 65% of employees admit to working longer hours than ever before.

Lack of Defined Office Space and Amenities

Office life. You arrive at a designated time, settle into your designated work space, with your company-provided ergonomic chair and desk, login to your computer, and have instant access to shared drives and files, without needing to leverage a VPN. The supply room is stocked, printers have paper, and there’s a never-ending supply of paper clips.

Work from home life. You roll out of bed, boot-up while you make coffee, and attempt to get your kids logged in for another day of remote learning. Tensions are high, the internet connection slows to a snail’s pace when you login to your VPN, and working from your dining room table is killing your back. Need to print something? Better hope there’s enough ink.

New Interruptions

A day in the office rarely passed without a random desk driveby or an unexpected team meeting. Now our days are punctuated by never-ending Slack (or Teams) notifications, and Zoom fatigue (yes, it’s a real thing).

The New York Times notes, “For all the advantages and disadvantages of remote work, video calls have emerged as such a widespread pain point that the term “Zoom fatigue” has entered our lexicon — a catchall phrase referring to the tiredness related to video calls on any number of platforms.”

Virtual Learning and Family Care

Perhaps the biggest challenge in the past year has been schools suspending in-person learning and shifting to a virtual model. Kids are forced to spend an unbelievable amount of time glued to computer screens with parents playing the role of teacher—all while trying to work, and maintain a household. Talk about wearing many hats!

How to Best Support Remote Finance Teams: Tools & Processes

With the new challenges associated with remote work, it’s critical to implement both the tools and processes to ensure that your remote finance and accounting team remains high functioning. Automated reports, expense visibility, faster processing, revamped policies, and the ability to issue virtual credit cards have become the lifeline for finance teams.

With modern expense tracking software, your finance team will have improved visibility into business spend with easy expense capture, seamless reports, an automated approval flow, and timely insights.

The Automation Imperative

Automating processes and simplifying approvals through technology is critical for high functioning, remote finance teams. Integrations are also supremely important. As we’ve stated previously, “Look for expense management software that offers integrations with other programs you’re used to (e.g., Quickbooks, Bill.com, NetSuite). This streamlines the process of incorporating the new tool with your favorite programs. Other important features are automation and an easy user interface.”

Automated reports will allow both your finance team and employees to instantly capture and categorize expenses based on receipt images, enabling managers to see transactions before they are even submitted.

Virtual Credit Cards

Virtual credit cards have been a lifesaver for companies with a newly remote workforce that needed supplies and equipment to continue business as usual. However, this form of payment has existed long before COVID-19. Pre-pandemic, virtual credit cards, or VCCs, were created to provide a way to mask secure information from being stolen. To do this, a one-time-use number is generated to hide sensitive credit card data when shopping online or with a mobile wallet. They are a great option for employers to issue to their workforce for one-time use.

Finance teams love VCCs as they integrate directly into the corporate card dashboard for spend visibility, they can be issued instantly (versus processing a physical card and waiting for snail mail to deliver it), spending limits are easily adjusted, and cards can be disabled with the click of a button or on a set date. Virtual credit cards also streamline expense reports with multiple payment sources requiring reimbursement.

Have Processes Changed?

If you were already using a best-in-breed expense management tool that was integrated into your accounting software, chances are your accounting team may not have had a ton of changes in their day-to-day tasks. However, the rest of your company has likely had to review and comply with policy changes for expenses and reimbursement.

Ensuring Compliance from Afar

You can have the best expense management tools and policies in place, but if adoption is low, compliance will be non-existent. It is important to offer company-wide training to review policy changes. Although meeting as a team is unlikely, you can still host a virtual All Hands to share what has changed and answer questions relating to approvals, expense parameters, and reimbursement. In addition to sharing your updated expense policy and offering the opportunity for employees to submit questions in advance, you can even distribute GrubHub gift cards (or something similar) for employees to grab lunch on the company dime.

Virtual Onboarding

The days of hosting a team lunch to welcome the newest accounting department member seems like a different era. However, it’s important to set new employees up for success and make them feel welcome.

First Day Logistics

Ensure that laptops are shipped in time for day one on the job and email, and ensure access to company apps and credentials are provisioned in time for an employee’s first day.

Warm Welcomes are Appreciated

Even though your new hire can’t be introduced to the rest of the finance and accounting department in person, be sure to acknowledge that they joined the team and introduce them to key players. You can schedule a team lunch via video chat to give everyone a chance to interact more casually. This provides an opportunity to share both work and out-of-(virtual)-office topics.

Ending on a Positive

Having a remote finance and accounting team isn’t all bad. Companies are able to spread talent all over the world, without the overhead of physical office spaces. It’s important to provide a buffer from “Zoom fatigue” for your finance team. Consider a “No Fly Zone”. This could be one day or half a day each week that is meeting-free so that accounting team members can focus on projects without interruption.

Whatever the new normal is for your finance department, technology is available to help automate tasks, and ensure that the team stays connected and compliance isn’t compromised. If you have questions about how automated expense management, such as TravelBank’s, can help your team, let us know—we’re just a virtual meeting away.

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