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Basic Info

  • Name: Holly
  • Title: Operations Coordinator
  • Firm size: 35+ employees
  • How long at the firm: 10 years
  • How long and how often have you been working remotely: 7 years

The Transition to Working Remotely

Do you work in a remote office/work space environment or work from home?

I work from home in an area that is my dedicated office space.

How did working remotely come about?

Seven years ago when my husband was deployed to Texas, the partners brought this option up to me. I wasn’t considering staying with the firm because, at the time, no one at the firm worked remotely, but when the partners suggested it, I thought I’d try it out. My husband has been deployed few times so we’ve moved a lot since then and I’ve stayed with the same firm this whole time.

What was the conversation with your ‘boss’ like when wanting to transition remote?

The partners approached me about this, and my first response was, how would working remotely be possible? My job wasn’t really set up so I could work from home. I did lots of end-deliverables at the time, so my job had to change, and it grew/morphed over time. I am able to handle different tasks in different ways than when I worked in the office. And trying new methods forced lots of changes in processes and procedures at the firm, including forcing us to be more paperless.

IT at Your House

Do you use a desktop or laptop?  If a laptop, do you have a docking station?

I use a desktop without a docking station. When I moved, the firm was wearing docking stations out anyway.

How many monitors do you have?

three

Do you print at the house?

No since we are paperless.

Does the firm pay for your technology at home?

They paid for all of my equipment when I moved, my laptop, and reimburse me for my Internet and cell phone bills.

Do people in the office have the same IT setup at your firm?

There is one other woman working remotely (living in VA). Everyone at the firm is 100% in the Cloud, and we don’t do anything outside of the Cloud. Other employees use this convenience to log in and do work when at a client’s site and on occasions when they need to work from home, such as inclement weather or having to take care of a sick kid.

How does the cloud impact working from home?

It has made working remotely very seamless. We have a strong firm policy to never work outside of the cloud, so we can literally work anywhere. The firm is pretty laid back about working remotely but prefer people to be in the office and be available there. Some people work from home on Fridays and have flexibility. At least in my smaller town, I don’t know anyone else who has this flexibility. I recruit at college campuses, and although many students are attracted to big firms, outside of the big firms, they are attracted to the convenience of our cloud environment and work-life balance.

Being Part of the Firm

How do you socialize with other employees?

My role at the firm requires a good deal of interaction with most of my colleagues. Everyone is really good at responding to emails. I knew most people face-to-face for about two years before going remotely, which helps. I have to push myself though to be social. I think working remotely allows me to do some tasks in half the time since I don’t have distractions/interruptions of people popping into my office while I’m working.

Do you use video at all, i.e. have video meetings with other firm employees or clients?

We do not use this yet. When I first started working remotely, all of the partners and I got webcams to communicate with each other. I talked to 2-3 partners every day via webcam, but eventually, the firm stopped using them.

What are the chances of you working for this firm if you were unable to work remotely?

If I didn’t have the option to work remotely, I wouldn’t still be working at this firm.

Has your production increased or decreased?

Without having the ability for others to pop in and chat whenever they want, I’m able to laser-focus on my work. Without being in the office, people are required to think more on their own without leaning on me as much, which is less “noise” for me. Since the transition, I’ve been involved in so many new aspects, esp. IT tasks, that I might not have stepped into otherwise.

Did you have to sign a work from home policy or have any other standards you must adhere to?

No. Because everyone at the firm is totally inside the cloud, I didn’t need access to other networks, etc. I’m very OCD on my own because of our firm’s security measures. And since I don’t print anything, there’s no paper trail.

General

What advice would you give to another CPA firm employee looking to work remotely?

I started working on my MBA online at the same time that I started to work remotely. I’ve learned that I have to be a self-starter; it pushed me out of my comfort zone and forced me to start thinking differently. It’s very important to set a routine for myself and to have some sort of ongoing outside interest. Most people’s daily socializing is from working in an office, but if you don’t have that, then having other habits/routines that allow you to get out can be important. It takes some time getting used to, but I ended up loving it – it’s really the best of all worlds for me.

What advice would you give another CPA firm looking to have more employees work from home?

It’s a balance. It seems to work better for people who have worked in the office first. Look at the situation, and if the employee is worthwhile to the firm, then you can make it work, even if there’s more effort involved upfront to figure out the transition. However, it’s probably not for everyone. Even our receptionist and someone who supports our managing partner moved and work remotely just fine. You have to ask yourself, is a warm body better vs. having a really good employee and keeping quality employees?

What is a personal lesson you have learned to keep you more productive?

Have a set routine. Try looking at things a different way and be okay with challenging the current processes and procedures to improve upon them.

What is the number one benefit of working remotely for you?

My home life seems better. I can multi-task without taking away from my work or home life, so that when 5 pm hits (I work 8-5), I can relax and spend time with my family. I’m happier working at home and can really focus on both my job and family.

 

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