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How to survive accountancy’s remote working battleground

10 February 2020: cloud accounting tools have brought many benefits to accountants, including the ability to work from anywhere. But in a profession that struggles to switch off at the best of times, is this newfound flexibility always an advantage?

The growth of cloud-based accounting tools has cut down the need for accountants to be physically in the office at all times. As a result, many are choosing to leave the traditional 9-5 routine in favour of working at a time and place that suits them. This flexibility is particularly beneficial for those juggling work and family commitments.

What’s more, working remotely can increase productivity. It’s often easier to focus on the task in hand when there are fewer interruptions from colleagues. Working from home also means saying goodbye to the daily commute – a big advantage if you face a lengthy journey to the office.

But while remote working has many benefits, it’s not without its pitfalls. Maintaining discipline, for example, can be particularly challenging for home workers when procrastination sets in. In some cases, working away from a corporate environment can also create a feeling of isolation. Although many people enjoy the solitude, others thrive on the daily human interaction that comes with working in an office.

But perhaps the biggest challenge is being able to "switch off" at the end of the day. While many of us hope that remote working will improve our work-life balance, in reality, this is not always the case.

With information accessible at the touch of a button and emails arriving at any hour, remote working is fuelling the "always on" culture that dominates the accounting profession.

Consider these tips to help make remote working a success:

1. Create a separate space

Creating a dedicated work area that’s separate from your personal space will help you to distinguish between work and home. This might be a designated room in your house or an office in the garden. If this isn’t feasible, consider working from a place outside your home such as a library, coffee shop or coworking space.

2. Establish a routine

While having the flexibility to set your own working schedule is appealing, it’s still important to have a routine. This means setting dedicated times for switching on and off. Avoid the temptation to respond to messages outside of these hours to show people that you’re not available 24/7.

3. Remove distractions

If you struggle to stay focused, try removing distractions wherever possible. This might mean physically taking something away from your environment, for example, your mobile phone. Or if social media alerts are diverting your attention, disable news feed extensions in your browser.

4. Use the right tools

There’s a wealth of tools that can make remote working easier for accountants. Cloud accounting software and apps are the most obvious, while video conferencing offers a convenient way to participate in meetings remotely. Other useful tools include Google Drive, which allows for easy file sharing and collaboration, and electronic signature software.

5. Manage expectations

In an increasingly connected world, taking time off can be challenging. If you’re planning a holiday and don’t intend to "log on", it’s worth communicating this in advance to avoid the otherwise inevitable interruptions.

However, if it’s not possible to down tools entirely, try to reconcile with the fact that less work will get done and manage the expectations of those around you.

Remote working is an ongoing battleground for accountants, but with planning, self-discipline and the right technology, the advantages can often outweigh the drawbacks.