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Business employee working on his laptop remotely from home

Advice For Your Employees While Working Remotely

More and more companies are working remotely due to the pandemic and it doesn’t look like this trend is going to stop anytime soon. Companies are offering more full-time remote positions, which gives employees more flexibility to their work-life balance. However, this shift isn’t always seamless for the company; managing technology and people is very different while the whole team is working remotely. Today we will cover some technology tips to tackle ASAP and advice to give your employees to help them work from home as efficiently as they can!

Technology tips

Providing the tools, platforms, and apps your employees need to work remotely is a must. Depending on the type of service you offer, a laptop will be the very minimum of what they need in order to digitally transform their home office. You may also need to provide things like a second monitor or external hard drives.

It will fall on the IT department to equip every computer with the communication and workflow systems necessary for your employees to work effectively from home, so you need to be ready to teach your employees how to use communication platforms. Tools like VoIP phone systems or chat room applications will help your team communicate just as you would in person. And unlike a traditional office phone set, these digital communication platforms can be easily installed for employees who are already working outside the office. Hosting meetings to teach your employees how to use the new applications will be a helpful start, then you can continuously share tips about system updates and user training so they stay up to date with the changing technology!

Once all of the heavy lifting from the IT department is complete, you can still blast out technology resources and help your employees work effectively from home. General computer help and cybersecurity will go far while people aren’t working in the office.

In light of COVID-19, online phishing and other scams have become more common. Provide your team with a comprehensive list of ways to avoid phishing scams, viruses, and other attacks on your devices that come via email. It’s important to have individuals stay aware and vigilant of these attacks, especially while working remotely. Other, general computer tips like restarting on a regular basis, backing up data to an external hard drive, and closing out of unused tabs can be helpful for people who aren’t technologically savvy! This advice will keep their computers running faster and will result in fewer headaches at home.

Workplace advice

HR is another department that will have a heavy hand in getting your team working remotely successfully. They will be the main communicators of company changes and the ones willing and ready to offer additional support to remote employees.

You may have to offer resources on home-office environments, mental health, and childcare services. Some employees may be looking to create a home office space or even preparing to sell their home now that they’re working remotely full-time. This is a great opportunity to share information about home equity loans. This large sum of money can be used to upgrade their home office or make other changes around the house if they’re planning to sell.

Telehealth services have seen a large increase in usage over the past 6 months due to the pandemic. This is a great time to share a telehealth service that can be used by your team and covered by your insurance provider. Proper mental health practices will help keep your employees productive and happy while working at home.

Finally, share local childcare services that are still available and open during COVID-19. Parents who work from home may appreciate the break in their day that they were used to having while working in an office setting or while their kids were at school. Employees will value the advice you have to share about local happenings that can positively impact their family and home environment!

There is plenty of information and resources available to you to pass along to your employees while they work remotely. From cybersecurity to childcare, your employees will value that you are researching and sharing ways to help them do their jobs effectively and keep a good work-life balance while at home.

 

Business employee works on his computer from home

The Impact of Remote Work: Is it Here to Stay?

When looking at the sudden popularity of remote work, it’s easy to assume that it was a result of the coronavirus and the lockdown that followed. However, that would be ignoring the existing trend of remote work that had been growing years prior.

Is Remote Work Temporary?

Remote work was growing in popularity long before the Coronavirus pandemic struck the U.S. and forced businesses to shutter. Way back in March of 2019 research was already showing that 83 percent of U.S. businesses in the past 10 years introduced a flexible workspace or were planning to.

Another statistic that might surprise you is 16 percent of businesses hired remote workers exclusively.  When companies closed their doors in March of 2020, no one had any idea how long they would remain closed.

Some companies embraced remote work sooner than others. Companies like Facebook announced they would allow their employees to work remotely to the end of 2020. Others like Twitter stated publicly they would go remote indefinitely.

As we can see, remote work is nothing new. But it went from popular trend to basic necessity in almst no time at all.

So what is the future of remote work?

Where is this all headed?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics released data that shows how different industries were impacted by COVID-19. While industries like Finance and Insurance managed to adapt pretty successfully, other industries like Tourism and Hospitality have suffered.

During the early periods of the COVID outbreak, 90 percent of employment decreases came from jobs that couldn’t be done remotely. This is according to a PEW Research Center analysis of the government’ data on labor.

It is true that barbers, waiters, tattoo artist and other contact dependent jobs were lost as a consequence, but another trend stated to arise as well.

There were other individuals—specifically individuals with college degrees—that could function remotely. Teachers, stock traders, financial advisors and accountants as we’ve seen before were able to adjust themselves to teleworking.

Nerds Support conducted its own poll asking how much the lock-down had affected their business. Of the 22 respondents that answered, 36.4 percent said they went fully remote and were considering a permanent remote option.

Nerds Support conducted a poll about the impact of remote work

Part Time vs. Full Time Remote Work

Will business owners and their employees learn to optimize their remote work capabilities? A survey by Salesforce and Tableau revealed that 69 percent of respondents agreed that the nature of work was going to change permanently due to pandemic.

A recent Gartner poll showed that 48% of employees will likely work remotely at least part of the time after COVID-19 versus 30% before the pandemic. As organizations shift to more remote work operations, explore the critical competencies employees will need to collaborate digitally, and be prepared to adjust employee experience strategies. Consider whether and how to shift performance goal-setting and employee evaluations for a remote context.

Gartner research also shows the coronavirus pandemic will have a long term impact work.

More Remote Work

A poll conducted back in June showed that 48 percent of employees are likely to work remotely at least on a part-time basis. This was an increase from 30 percent before the pandemic began.

Offshore jobs

As mentioned before, there has been many job loses but many job opportunities created from the pandemic. Since telework has increased, so has the pool of candidates employers can choose from.

Initially, employers responded to the pandemic by furloughing or firing their employees to cut costs. However, as the months have gone by, a newer trend has revealed itself.

Employers are hiring more contingent workers to improve flexibility in their workplace.

Remote work for efficiency

55 percent of organizations redesigning their operations were more focused on streamlined positions. Doing so maximized efficiency but also created vulnerabilities in resilience. That means that they operate better at the cost of losing their ability to respond to disruptions.

Remote vs. Workplace

Since we’re going by the numbers, 57 percent of workers wanted to increase their remote work in the future. This number increases to 64 percent among those who are concerned about the coronavirus health risks. Even so, 80 percent of workers indicated that they would likely continue working from home partially. Those already working remotely full-time only 1 percent say they want to return exclusively to the office.

Workers who operate remotely are less likely to lose their job

Once again, job loss was associated with those who were unable to work remotely. From the months of Feburary to March, the unemployment in the U.S. decreased by 2.9 million. Employment among jobs that could transition remotely was virtually unchanged.  The number decreased by 0.5 percent.

Industries that are becoming more relevant

 Managed IT services companies are seeing an increase in popularity as more businesses transition to cloud based networks. The transition to the cloud indicates a concern for efficiency as we’ve discussed. Telecommunication is becoming more important as businesses learn to share and cooperate from longer distances. As a result, cloud infrastructures are needed  to accommodate for this change.

Cloud computing grants businesses the flexibility, scalability, and security to be successful with remote work.

Why Cloud Flexibility & Remote Work Are The Future

The Flexibility of The Cloud & Remote Work

How does cloud flexibility allow for a remote work environment? When you migrate to the cloud, your data is hosted in an off-site data center instead of on premise.

You can then work from any location as long as you have a device connected to the internet. By eliminating the restrictions of an on-site server, you can increase your mobility exponentially.

You can work from anywhere as long as you have the right credentials, a secure device and an internet connection.

Remote Work Promotes Business Continuity

Business doesn’t stop for anyone. Having the option to work off-site has many benefits. When you consider how chaotic things can be you start to appreciate the flexibility of the cloud.

Many businesses struggle and even fail after a natural disaster or an unforeseen event. The Pandemic of 2020 showed us that the world can come to a crashing halt at any given moment. Investing in your firm’s future is not about ignoring an uncomfortable reality, but adapting to it.

We learned in a matter of a few short months how quickly the standard model can fail when tried. And a pandemic isn’t the only natural disaster that brings these conflicts. If you live in the east coast, hurricanes, tropical storms and other weather events can limit access to your business. Storms cause outages and often floods. What happens to your business then?

For small businesses, the recovery from hurricanes and other natural disasters might take years — if they even recover at all.  After Katrina, Louisiana businesses suffered a lot of damage.

Those with remote capabilities can function in these types of circumstances since they are not limited by a physical office space.

Small Businesses Struggle After A Disaster

Many small businesses are not as lucky as the larger franchises, however. According to a government study, 40 percent of small businesses never reopen following a weather-related disaster. The reason for that is unfortunate but simple: a halt in productivity is a halt in revenue. Businesses that shut down during these disasters are still growing, don’t have adequate cash reserved to repair damage and pay bills once they stop operating.

Even without any physical destruction to property, businesses that shut down can lose money and fail to pay for their monthly overhead. We’ve seen this happen to shopping malls and retail stores. A retail store owner will pay a mall for space but when they shut down, there’s no money coming in. As a result, the store closes down.

How about if an employee gets sick or has to suddenly leave town? How about businesses that are impacted by earthquakes or reconstruction?

Companies whose workers can work remotely have a better chance at survival than those who rely on in house servers and technology.

What’s worse, none of these events are within the control of a business owner. Not having remote capabilities is like living in a house without insurance or an alarm system. You’re at the mercy of the elements.

Remote option Increases Productivity Even in Unforeseen Situations

Another example is when an employee gets sick, or has to care for a sick child, and can’t get to the office. Without the flexibility of the cloud and remote work, the will inevitably fall behind.
If they are able to work from home, however, business can continue without major interruption.

Working from Home Business Can Continue with The Cloud

The benefits of Cloud and remote work are for more than managing disasters and illness. When workers have access to their files and data, they can make last minute changes to a project or document. They can collaborate and improve the quality of the work outside the office as well.

Conversely, an employee might want to make progress with the work they are doing to prepare for a busy week coming up. That way they can clear up their schedule and move on to other projects and tasks. Employees can access their important files through the cloud at a moment’s notice.

When given remote access, employees experience a boost in productivity. Having a quieter environment away from the distractions of the office makes a big difference.
Offices can be very distracting environments. Away from office banter and side-conversations in the break-room, employees are more focused on the tasks at hand. They also take shorter breaks and work to the end of the day.

Increase Productivity With The Cloud

Remote work opens up new opportunities for employees and business owners alike. There are Gallup polls showing a 37 percent increase in productivity when moving to a remote environment.
The only thing is, you have to make sure you have the right technology in place to succeed. Ensuring you have the data and cyber protections in order to keep your business information safe. Migrating to the cloud and adopting remote work methods is useless if it makes your business more vulnerable to cyber attacks.

Remote Work Is Green Work

As we alluded to, employees and employers work longer partly because they don’t have a long commute. But if you think about it, that also means no commute at all. Remote work decreasesw traffic congestion, greenhouse gasses and air pollution by working from home.

In fact, remote workers take 600,000 cars off the road each year. On a cloud-based platform, greenhouse emissions will plummet to an all time low. That doesn’t mean people won’t go out to their favorite restaurant or shopping center. It simply means vehicles will be used more sparingly.

Not to mention the added bonus in savings on gas and repairs from the natural wear-and-tare that comes with car use.

Do Your Research

Look for a Managed IT services partner that fits your specific business goals. Nerds Support, for example, focuses on financial services and logistics firms. Therefore, we focus on compliance, auditing processes and cyber security for financial firms.

Other cloud providers are made for marketing and creative projects. There are plenty of Managed IT services providers that offer IT consulting for hospitals or local businesses. Here are  10 examples of cloud computing if you want to learn more.

Cloud Flexibility Allows you To Adapt And Overcome

When companies are faced with any disaster or problem they have to rise to the occasion and pivot their business to adjust. Spotify, the massive music streaming service, is a good example. When the Covid-19 pandemic of 2020 came, advertisers had to make budget cuts.

Knowing this would threaten Spotify’s business model, they chose to focus more on streaming podcasts rather than just music. Spotify recognized a massive uptick in the number of individuals streaming podcasts and decided to adapt by capitalizing on the unique opportunity.

In much the same way, companies must embrace remote work or be replaced by those willing to make the change.

 

Financial advisor working remotely from home on his computer.

4 Things Financial Firms can do to Succeed Remotely

Financial firms are in the best position to succeed in a remote environment. Engaging with clients is easier than meeting in person and much of the work can be done regardless of location.

Americans are slowly adjusting to working from home. As states begin to ease the quarantine restrictions some companies are declaring permanent remote work environments. Companies like Facebook and Twitter are offering their employees the opportunity to work from home indefinitely.

Many firms have already moved to a fully remote operation and many more will do so in the future. However, moving to remote work can be difficult if handled incorrectly. Creating a successful remote operation is a new challenge CPA’s and financial firms will have to overcome.

When the lock-down started business owners looked to getting operations up as quickly as possible. Those who hadn’t migrated to a cloud based system did so. Others only migrated partly. While others still, struggled to adapt to a fully remote workplace. Video conferencing tools like Zoom and Microsoft teams grew in use and popularity.

Daily downloads of the videoconferencing app Zoom increased by 300 million participants since March. Businesses and employees spent time researching the different videoconferencing application and IT services companies that best fit their standards. But that’s only the beginning.

If you as a financial firm want to succeed in a remote environment you have to navigate cooperation, time management, data security and keeping your business functioning even while everyone may be so distant.

Here are a few ways to achieve success for your firm while working apart.

1) Take Advantage of Your Remote Environment

Maybe you’ve already noticed, but it’s difficult to distract each other with office gossip when there isn’t an office to gossip about. 85 percent of employees are either not engaged or disengaged at work. As a result, there is a 7 trillion dollar loss in productivity. Many offices have an open office layout which create a 32 percent drop in productivity.

However, this is harder to replicate when you’re forced to work remotely. Instead, the productive thing to do is to set virtual office hours or schedule meetings for a specific hour the day. Employees and staff can reserve a meeting however you choose. This might appear obvious to some but even in a remote environment it’s easy to get side tracked. You get one call from one colleague and then anther call 20 minutes later from an employee.  By the time you finish, you might not remember what you were doing in the first place.

Designate a period of time in your weekly and daily schedule for all meetings. The routine will also keep you focused and organized. Keeping a routine can lead to positive mental health. A routine can help manage stress levels and less overall anxiety, according to one study by Northwestern Medicine. College professors and councilors are very familiar with this system. It would be like having virtual office hours where team members can choose a slot and book a meeting.

2) Adapt to Technology

If you stop and think, if something like the Lockdown of 2020 had happened ten years earlier, remote work would not be possible. The emergence of cloud technology and communication apps like Microsoft Teams, Skype, Facetime, and Zoom together is what allows for a successful remote work environment.

Moving forward, many experts expect these changes to persist, bringing in a new era of remote activity. For financial firms, advising, asset valuation, and consulting will be done remotely. Firms should be looking to build on this change and integrate a remote reality to their existing operation.

What can your firm do to remain competitive, updated, and secure. Invest in a cloud service provider. IT services are going to be pivotal in the coming decades. Managed service providers will be in a position to make or break your firm. Look up the different cloud models and their features. Are they FINRA or SOX compliant? Where are their servers located? Are they stored somewhere outside the U.S.?

Nerds Support specializes in working with financial firms. However, there are many options available when hiring a managed IT service provider. Some are better than others, depending on the industry. You have to factor in security, location, knowledge of your industry, and even availability.

The Workplace platform provides a comprehensive solution that combines cyber security, compliance, & remote work needs.

The Workplace platform provides a comprehensive solution that combines cyber security, compliance, & remote work needs.

Is there someone you can talk to when something goes wrong? Do you have a point of contact? Sometimes a support team consists of strangers and other times it’s the CEO.

4) Build a Better Team Remotely

Human beings are social animals.  Although remote work is beneficial to productivity, it might be harmful to be socially isolated from your team. But there is a solution.

Team building is an important tool for social bonding and improving motivation. Setting aside an hour at the end of the week to celebrate that week’s accomplishments is a good example of team-building. There are a ton of other games and exercises you can try over video chat. Many have done virtual hangouts. Virtual happy hours are also popular. Even virtual competitions with certain free online games have brought offices together.   

5) Make Sure to Reconnect with Reality

The biggest issue in a remote work environment is that everything does seem to blend together. When you can’t distinguish your bedroom from your workplace it’s easy to get lost in a work-all-the-time mentality. Having an office has the psychological benefit of creating a barrier between your personal and work life.

A Stanford study showed that after 50 hours a week productivity sharply drops. Even worse, after 55 hours productivity gets so low that working becomes counterproductive.

I bring up the Stanford study because the comforts of working from home can often trick you into working more. Working an extra hour won’t kill you but the added stress of feeling like you’re at work at all hours is a serious problem. Establish clear boundaries for yourself and your team. When it’s time to log off, you log off. Communicate with your team your unavailability after a set time. Go for a walk, listen to music, but most importantly stay away from your computer.

 

How Accounting CPA's will continue post the pandemic

Accounting In A Post Pandemic Era

The coronavirus has impacted nearly everyone in the country. Now, accountants might find themselves wondering how to create a secure work environment for themselves and their clients.

The needs of your clients are changing and so is the industry. Furthermore, new regulations created as a consequence of the coronavirus are affecting business practices.

With that in mind, here are a few changes the CPA’s will experience in the coming years.

Employees

All businesses including CPA firms are looking to get employees back to work.  These are some guidelines that might help your firm organize itself as the country begins to open up again.

  1.  EEOC sub regulatory guidance is a mouthful, but it is also important when considering how to navigate your firm’s re-opening process. According to EEOC guidance, employers are permitted to test for the presence of the COVID-19 virus before allowing employees to enter the place of work.
  2.  Employers must ensure the right infection controls regarding testing and be cautious of false positives and false negatives. Keep in mind that even the most accurate test only detects the virus if it’s currently present in the body. It does not guarantee the employee will not get the virus later.
  3.  Temperature checks are permissible under EEOC guidelines. However, who should administer the checks and how to administer them are not clear.
  4.  Employees testing positive for COVID-19 should be isolated from others and the workplace. Employers are encouraged to follow CDC and OSHA guidelines, which include closing off areas used by the sick employee, cleaning and disinfecting the environment, and informing other employees of any possible exposure to the virus in the office.
  5. Results from a COVID-19 test or temperature check fall under ADA confidentiality provisions. These tests are considered confidential information that should be kept in a secure location away from other employee information.

 

Industry

We covered employees, but what about changes in the industry itself? The COVID-19 crisis has accelerated certain trends and shifted others. Let’s review what some of those are.

A Shift in Duties For CPA’s

Small-business clients need help accessing relief programs in the CARES Act and the Paycheck Protection Program specifically. This means firms need to quickly transition from consulting to advisors as they help businesses get through the lockdown.  Financing reviews, a lot of cash flow forecasting and evaluating relief packages will be more important through tax season and the next few months.

Working Remotely

Experts agree that remote work for CPA’s is going to become the new normal. With companies like Twitter, Facebook and more making remote work permanent.

Although remote work was projected by  to increase gradually, the lockdown sped up the process. Firms were forced to quickly adopt remote enabling technologies like Video conferencing apps and the cloud.

Cloud Accounting

Speaking of the cloud, the move to remote operations has been difficult for firms who complain that apps like Zoom are not working well with their Citrix environment. That’s mainly because these firms have only partially moved over to the cloud.

Cloud accounting is an inevitability now that we know a pandemic can force us to work beyond the office at any moment.

A firm that was not prepared likely did not have the time to migrate to the cloud all of their applications and infrastructure over. So as things begin to pick up speed they’ll do so.

Moving to the cloud is not as easy as choosing to do so. There are steps to cloud migration. Moreover, the quality of the cloud service depends on the quality of the provider. Firms must familiarize themselves with the different types of cloud services: public, private and hybrid clouds.

By choosing a large public cloud like Amazon Web Services, you could be sacrificing personalized care. Choose a cloud that lacks the proper regulatory standards and it might hurt your firm more than it helps.

The chief concern for all CPA’s should be to assist clients, help save businesses and keep jobs.  CPA’s are the financial experts both individuals and main street businesses need right now. Having the right tools in place is going to be essential.

Accountants may have the technology to work remotely but not all of them have everything they require to work efficiently. Although being in the office doesn’t compare with being at home, adjusting is a matter of making the right choices.

Clients

Additionally, accountants can’t meet face-to-face with clients so they’ll resort to remote advising as a way to adjust. However, just like remote work, remote advising is going to outlast the lockdown it seems.

Accountants and clients will adjust to working from the comfort of their homes without having to bare long commutes or wait in an office.

Remote advising will redefine what it means to be an accountant like tax application services are doing now. Firms will realize that remote advising is not just a way of working through a pandemic but perhaps a more efficient way of doing business for both them and their clients.

Firms

Although the long-term consequences of the lockdown are still unknown, accountants need to see themselves as advisors businesses need to survive. Firms of all sizes are going to called on by their clients to help them though the economic downturns created by the lockdown.

CPA’s, unlike other professions, are facing an opportunity for growth. Accounting firms should position themselves as the first responders during a financial crisis. Employers, businesses and average citizens are looking for help. They want to apply for loan programs, government assistance, and financial relief programs. All of these examples require knowledgeable of tax, accounting and payroll.