The Realities of Organizing a Functional Remote Team



Those forced into working from home at the start of the pandemic did so warily, with more apprehension than excitement. Companies, especially those with no prior experience accommodating remote teams, had much to learn about what it meant to truly manage from afar. Now, a year later, many are feeling much more comfortable with their home office setup, and their remote managing skills, that reluctance is centered around the return to the office. For employees, that reluctance stems from a new appreciation for flexibility and time with family and hobbies. For employers, it is mostly the knowledge that many recent surveys report today’s workforce is more than happy to jump ship if asked to return to the office fulltime.

The solution? Obviously, the remote team model is here to stay. That said, is this past year a true reflection of the ideal remote work condition? According to Forbes, the answer is probably not. Despite how functional one thinks their remote team or management structure is, Darren Murph, head of remote at GitLab, one of the pioneers of the remote working model, says, “What we’ve been doing for the past year isn’t remote work; it’s pandemic-induced work from home. There are many benefits of remote working that can’t be accessed right now, and the stressors of the pandemic are creating an added layer of complexity to what a typical remote worker would usually experience1.”

In a true remote work environment, multiple considerations that were ignored amid the chaos of the work from home transition will require addressing at last. The accounting profession has already met with some of those considerations, particularly in the realm of education and the CPA Exam. For instance, surveillance software to ensure academic honestly. While a job proctor is hardly feasible, other invasive software to track hours is an option that could lead to some uncomfortable conversations, especially among current employees that are used to doing things a certain way.

Other considerations might include taxes or other monetary concerns, depending on where a remote employee is physically located. Further, how to fairly assign bonuses, stipends and other perks among in-office and remote workers. Another huge factor for consideration will be fixing the cyber security mistakes of the pandemic and ensuring that employees, old and new, are trained and compliant with security protocols.

The prospect of organizing a truly functional remote team therefore seems an exorbitant undertaking, particularly from the HR perspective. At the height of the pandemic human resource employees were facing massive layoffs and now the opposite is true. It seems every company eyeing return to office operations is desperately seeking the brightest in HR professionals to help them cope with the current YOLO economy and great resignation. As old human resource dilemmas merge with these new concerns for remote roles, firms might consider adding a Chief Remote Work Officer to manage those requirements.

Forbes reports that a Chief Remote Work Officer can aid HR in organizing remote team members and their environment moving forward. Dividing this task ensures remote worker needs are met alongside that of their in-person colleagues. As human resource managers continue to focus on bringing employees back to the office safely, a chief remote work officer can assist in the planning of how to take pandemic-induced work from home to the next level as a high-functioning, integral part of a company’s business model1. At the very least, CPAs acting as part of a board of directors could bring this emerging role to the attention of their peers.

For firms with fewer resources, focusing on greater data security is a good place to start. If employees will be remaining remote, ensure they are taking the proper steps to ensure data is secure, from hardcopy client data to updated operating systems. Be sure to give frequent reminders not to open suspicious emails or links sent through messaging apps.

Finally, no matter how large or small a firm is, the most important factor to building a functional remote working environment is communication. Check in with your employees or teams frequently and ensure that whatever recognition standards are active among in-person employees carries over to the remote staff. According to Forbes, daily check-ins and overcommunication are both essential components of building effective remote teams. Further, establishing rules of engagement so that employees understand the frequency, means and ideal timing of communication expected of them2.

Are you reorganizing your remote team operations? Members interested in continuing the conversation or sharing their experiences can log in to MICPA Connect to exchange ideas on this topic and others!  

  1. Kelly, Jack. “The War For Talent and Great Resignation Puts Human…Forbes. 24 Jun 2021. Accessed on 15 Jul 2021.
  2. Gleeson, Brent. “13 Tips for Leading and Managing Remote Teams.Forbes. 26 Aug 2020. Accessed on 23 Jul 2021.

Source: MICPA

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