Professional works remotely from home

Three questions not-for-profits should ask when considering a remote working environment

Remote workers – including those working in finance in the not-for-profit world – are “here to stay,” according to Glenn Wood, the Pastor of Administration for Seacoast Church, a non-denominational church with locations across North and South Carolina, after a successful trial of remote working forced by the global COVID-19 pandemic.

Wood offered tips for a successful transition to remote working during a conference session co-hosted by Allison Webb, Director with Baker Tilly Digital. The presentation, titled “The Hybrid Workplace World in Not-for-Profit Finance,” was offered in Orlando, Florida, at the Sage Transform Conference 2022. Baker Tilly Digital is a Sage Intacct value-added reseller. The annual conference brings together customers and partners of Sage Intacct, a Silicon Valley-based provider of cloud-based financial management software and services.

Wood explained that most houses of worship initially said “no” to remote work. Certain church workers in maintenance, landscaping and facilities, he noted, clearly were required to perform their jobs on church premises. But the emerging COVID-19 pandemic, and related safety regulations mandating workers keep a safe distance from one another, forced church leaders to rethink their workforce models for office workers, he said.

Meanwhile, workforce experts began issuing studies that touted the benefits of remote work for reasons unrelated to pandemic safety. For example, Wood noted, as early as 2015, the OWL Labs’ annual “State of Remote Work” report noted that a majority of workers would prefer to telecommute every day, simply to skip tedious and time-consuming commutes. Employers began to support flexible and reduced work schedules to boost employee satisfaction in a competitive hiring environment. Over time, many employers began offering a mix of some jobs that must be performed on premises, and other jobs that can be performed remotely, giving rise to today’s popular “hybrid workforce.”

After two full years’ successful experience managing remote workers, today many employers are changing onboarding and employee management processes to accommodate their hybrid and remote workers. During their session, Wood and Webb posed three questions to answer when moving a workforce to remote work.

Question 1: How can your managers and employees communicate to agree on remote working schedules and guidelines?

One recent trend, Webb said, is the effort to foster clear communications between workers and managers to illustrate what remote working “success” looks like. Start by “defining the workday,” she said, including the days and hours employees are expected to be working, available to attend meetings and answer emails. It may work best for the not-for-profit to declare the entire staff must be available for a weekly team meeting. Or that accounts payable staffers with small children at home may do their work at night when the kids are sleeping.

Whatever schedule is suggested, she said, everyone should “talk through it” to understand and agree to what’s expected. Just remember that employees must be paid for all the hours they are asked to work, whatever the time of day or night.

Question 2: How is your organization committed to training its remote workers?

Comprehensive training is as important for remote workers as it is for in-office workers, the speakers emphasized. That training can be as basic as how to dress and act professionally on video calls, or as technical as how to be an expert user of the software and hardware required for the job.

Knowing that remote employees will want to work from colorful locations including the closest coffee shop, the living room couch, the dining room and the nearest beach, employers should consider suggesting appropriate, business-like locations. And employers can help by purchasing professional–and ergonomic–office furniture and computers for remote team members. The organization should also decide whether to pay for internet service and telephone charges for its remote employees.

Question 3: How can your not-for-profit adopt remote audits?

Webb, whose broad experience in finance includes two decades in the not-for-profit audit world, said conducting accounting audits remotely can save not-for-profit’s significant time and money. She recommended granting auditors read-only access to Sage Intacct financial systems that way, auditors can see what their clients see, and pull information as they need it, around the clock. Also, they can note questions and request more information any time through Sage software’s “Collaborate” and “Checklist” features.

Webb added that two Sage Intacct church customers have saved 20 to 25% in auditors’ fees during 2021 by conducting remote audits.

Working remotely has not only saved companies money but has also given employees more flexibility and a better work-life balance. Baker Tilly Digital is here to help you transform your not-for-profit organization in the new world of remote work.

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