Why working remotely is a bigger deal than people think

02nd April 2020

So, you did it!

After running around like crazy… Panicked phone calls with your IT guy… Endless discussions with your leadership team…

…your staff are all working from home, safely and soundly. Everyone is communicating on Microsoft Teams or Zoom, and your clients are still being served.

I would imagine that most company owners who managed that feat last week are feeling pretty pleased with themselves right now.

If that’s you, you probably gave yourself a big, metaphorical pat on the back…

…and you deserve it.

But while I hate to be the bearer of bad news (especially while there’s so much of it about), the effort to get you staff working from home is only just beginning.

It looks like we’re in this for the long-haul – for several weeks if not months. The government even seems to be preparing us for a long period in lockdown, followed by a loosening of the rules and then other lockdowns as the situation dictates.

And while getting your staff access to all your data, and helping them communicate with each other, is essential, it doesn’t mean that the way you work in the office is going to easily transfer to this new context.

The companies that do best are those that have strong systems in place, which determine how practically everything in the business works to make it efficient.

If you’ve been reading my emails for any length of time, you’ll know that this is absolutely vital both for your company to be able to scale and to grow its value. Getting good financial systems in place is particularly important.

But even companies with robust systems are going to have to use this time carefully, to tweak the way they’re set up…

…because otherwise you risk working inefficiently, making mistakes and letting down clients.

I’ll give you an example.

Here at Insight Associates, we have an extremely strong system set up, governing exactly how we make payments on behalf of our clients.

Because it’s so easy for mistakes to be made, and because in a good financial department you always have to protect against fraud, we don’t want any one payment to be handled by a single individual. Rather, 4 people are involved in each transaction.

In “normal times” – ie a week and a half ago – this worked like clockwork, but the system is quite paper-driven and is easiest to manage when we’re all in the same office.

Right now, each transaction is taking longer than usual because we are being abundantly cautious.

Adjusting this process – and many others - so that we can continue to work smoothly has become a priority.

There are, of course, other reasons why you may have to adjust the way you work.

Some of your staff members may be furloughed, now or if the financial situation tightens. That means that employees you relied on aren’t around – a particular issue if your business is not well systematised.

Unfortunately, reality is that you may also have staff members who become ill. Perhaps even a good chunk of your workforce.

And we may end up in a situation where some of your staff are working from home, and others from the office.

Whatever happens, if you continue to work the same way you did a few weeks ago (…just from home…), your business is going to run into difficulties.

It’s time for a mentality change. For the foreseeable future, remote working is the “new normal” (at least for now). We need to get less attached to the way we used to do things, and figure out new systems and processes for a new reality – including, crucially, financial systems.

The good news is that there are opportunities here to find efficiencies, work more smoothly and serve your customers better…

Welcome to Phase II of remote working!

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