- Name: Connie Buenrostro
- Title: Office Manager
- Firm size: 8+ employees
- How long at the firm: 9 years…pretty much been with the firm since their beginning
- How long and how often have you been working remotely: After Roman reviewed our firm and told us to go more paperless, I started working remotely a good bit. I moved to Mexico in August 2016 (and will be here for a couple of years) and went completely remote.
The transition to working remotely
Do you work in a remote office/work space environment or work from home?
Home with an office that is used strictly for work
How did working remotely come about?
After Roman’s evaluation, several functions of the administrative team started becoming more electronic (payments, invoices, and project management) and slowly heading towards more electronic rather than paper, which prepared things to be easier for me to work remotely. Then my move for a couple of years came up, so it came about that I would work remotely to stay with the firm.
What was the conversation with your ‘boss’ like when wanting to transition remote?
When my commute to work was 1.5 hours, the partners suggested that I work from home once a week, so it started that way. When I realized my family was moving, I suggested the idea since I had a small feel for what being completely remote would be like since I had been working from home once a week. Initially, I talked about just working part-time remotely from Mexico, but it was before I left that it was decided that I would work full-time. I realized that there’s a lot more work for me to do, so I slowly picked up more, and so far so good.
IT at your house
Do you use a desktop or laptop? If a laptop, do you have a docking station?
Laptop and a docking station to connect to a monitor
How many monitors do you have?
One additional monitor – use two screens including the laptop’s
Do you print at the house?
No. I don’t print any info at home. Everything I do is saved as a PDF and sent via email to my office through secure portal or ShareFile.
Does the firm pay for your technology at home?
My laptop was bought by the firm, which I only use strictly for work. I already had a monitor and docking station. When I ocasionally travel to visit the office, I just take my laptop with me.
Do people in the office have the same IT setup at your firm?
At the office, everyone has a desktop, and accountants have 2 monitors and partners have 3. I’m the only admin staff with a laptop and the partners have laptops too.
How does the cloud impact working from home?
I wouldn’t be able to do my current job without the cloud. I’ve tried in the past when my daughter was born in 2009, and we were also in Mexico for 1 year then, and I couldn’t work remotely back then since we weren’t in the cloud. At that time, our firm just had an in-house server.
Being part of the firm
How do you socialize with other employees?
I receive and make regular phone calls, but I use a messenger system especially when communicating with the admin assistant. We also use an app called Bria, which is basically my office phone. I do go to the office during busy seasons for about a week or two.
Do you use video at all, i.e. have video meetings with other firm employees or clients?
No. Not something the office uses.
What are the chances of you working for this firm if you were unable to work remotely?
I wouldn’t be able to still work for the firm if I wasn’t able to work remotely.
Do other employees work from home?
Others do, mainly during busy season or on the weekends when they need to get things done. People also work remotely when a child is sick or emergencies come up. Partners prefer that everyone is in the office when able during the week.
Has your production increased or decreased?
I definitely don’t think it has decreased. It’s probably the same or maybe increased a little. I don’t have to commute, and I find that I can really focus at home. I received feedback from the firm partners when I visited two months after the move, and they said that it’s been working out great. Clients actually get more coverage since I am 2 hours ahead and start answering emails about 2 hours before the office opens.
How do you think working remotely will impact your success with your firm? Your career?
I’m still new to doing this, but it’s been a few months, and so far it’s been good. I take working 100% remotely as a new experience. Having to adjust to it is somewhat like developing a new skill. I see it as a positive thing and feel like I’m constantly learning because of it. I think it’s a good thing to have and notice that more companies are starting to add this as a benefit.
Do your clients know you work remotely? If so, what have your clients said about you working remotely?
Some clients know. It wasn’t an announcement or anything when I moved. Some clients aren’t in California anyway (where our home office is), so I don’t think clients care. It’s not something that really ever comes up. As long as work is getting done, there are no complaints.
Did you have to sign a work from home policy or have any other standards you must adhere to?
No, I didn’t sign anything. I know that in our employee handbook, there’s a policy that employees need to use a computer with anti-virus, etc., and since working on a Xcentric managed laptop, everything is up-to-date and nothing has really changed since moving than before when working in the office.
What advice would you give to another CPA firm employee looking to work remotely?
It has worked for me. Working remotely may not be for everyone; some people may need the social aspect of an office. For me, I have fewer distractions when working at home. If someone wants to try it, they should.
What advice would you give another CPA firm looking to have more employees work from home?
It’s possible, but you have to have the right people and the right technology. Nowadays, with all of the new technologies, this is something that should be considered for most jobs. It’s an incentive for a lot of employees.
What is a personal lesson you have learned to keep you more productive?
I set my schedule to work during my office’s business hours and start working a little earlier to get things going. Have a set schedule for working and keep constant communication with people at the office. Communication is key, even if you’re not physically there.
Has accountability/production suffered in the past when it comes to your annual review? How has that changed since going remote?
I haven’t had an annual review since going remote, but like I mentioned before, in October, all of the feedback from the partners was positive. No negative comments regarding my working remotely. The way my firm is, they would address any major issues before my performance review if there were any.
What is the number one benefit of working remotely for you?
Having this amazing experience of living with my family in Mexico, while still being able to work with this firm which I love and has been with almost since its beginning. I’ve been happy to have seen things grow and improve for the firm.
Remote series items
- How to Decide If a Remote Team Is Right For Your Firm webinar
- Remote Employees: Plan Ahead for the Inevitable
- How to Build a Remote Team & Best Practices whitepaper
- Using the Ability to Go Remote As a Key Tactic in Your Retention Strategy
- More blog posts featuring Q&A sessions from employees who work remotely