When working from home is more than a convenience
Updated: Mar 13, 2020
Working from home isn’t for everyone but there are lots of measures you can take to make sure it is as streamlined and effective as working in a fully supported office environment. At Just Audit it is part of our culture and we have employed many processes to make sure we all benefit and offset any potential downsides. And it’s particularly relevant and topical right now as the Covid19 virus sweeps the globe, gathering pace. We are ‘business as usual’, largely down to the way we work and having everything we need to hand.
We would hope that the Coronavirus pandemic passes as quickly as it has arrived but It does throw home-working into perspective and show how valuable it is to have the option to allow staff the flexibility of working in a different environment. Certainly many of the UK’s Times Top 100 employers allow a working from home policy for all sorts of reasons – as an alternative to commuting, for higher levels of quiet concentration or for health reasons. It is certainly an ideal option for business continuity in the face of a number of challenges.
Our team at Just Audit all work from fully equipped home offices. We span the UK which gives us great coverage and accessibility to any client, wherever they are. For geographic sensibility we tend to keep the same teams on each project – for consistency, reduced costs and immediacy.
Also, our recruitment isn’t restricted to a specific part of the country – our staff could literally live anywhere. When recruiting we do ensure that home-working is suitable for any potential team member. Self-motivation is the key! Training new staff takes place using Zoom* (like Skype) which works well. Using intensive bursts of Zoom time negates the need for long, ‘brain-overload’ types of training days which are more usual in a traditional setting. Ongoing training is mostly digital so we can fit it in around our work schedules.
We also use Zoom for internal calls and most client meetings. The face-to-face aspect really helps build relationships and it makes the time focused and valuable. Screen sharing is easy on Zoom – for training and client exchanges. We host internal weekly meetings and daily catch ups to confirm the status of all of our projects; and to raise and explore any issues.
Our offices have evolved over the many years we have been operating home offices. We are considerate of ergonomics so we equip everyone with a desk, printer/scanner, office chair, computer and multiple monitors - all set to the right height. It’s important to us that our team is working comfortably and not sitting on a dining room chair all day long!
Of course, good quality internet connections mean we work quickly and can interact with each other and clients. We started out by introducing VOIP* which means we manage calls through our laptops or mobile phones. It rings initially at Tania’s office (Just Audit’s secretary) and then it rings out to everyone so we can answer the call and transfer it if required. Our systems allow us to see who is available so it is very similar to a traditional office.
Cloud-working* is another way we have been able to improve collaboration, security and communications – both internally and with our clients. Our cloud server hosts everything including our software. By working in the cloud, it means everything is together in one central place which we all access when we need to.
Even in this digital age we occasionally shared paper-based information from reference books and materials - which might have posed a problem if the ICAEW’s Bloomsbury* access wasn’t so good! We recommend finding well-maintained sources of information to support any ‘working from home’ based person.
We are highly mindful of GDPR and respect client confidentiality above everything. We are paperless but still need staff to be aware that they are not overlooked or overheard on confidential work – for this they take practical steps to ensure that they can work in an appropriate environment. Any physical documents are safely stored; and when a team member is on holiday any information held is transferred out of their office. We also operate a shredding service – either externally or via home shredders. Our client workflow portal* further supports our approach to confidentiality with many layers of security.
Like with any kind of job, we know our team work hard and are dedicated despite not being visible every day. Timesheets and deadlines drive important schedules and show that we are fully present during our working days. The autonomy and trust allowed within Just Audit naturally promotes high productivity levels.
Our office times are observed and respected – we work during the hours we set ourselves and close down when we aren’t working. When your office is in such close proximity it would be easy to extend your working day but we have the discipline to prioritise our down-time and mental well-being.
There are some logistical considerations. Insurance, for example, is slightly more complicated as we have multiple addresses to cover but it’s a one-off exercise that just needs updating when we increase the team. We also have an agreed expenses policy that is essential for travel costs. Talking of travel, we obviously avoid any tedious commuting – and there’s also no chance of any of us being late for work!
Working from home doesn’t mean we don’t enjoy great camaraderie either. We exchange funny emails, talk together and regularly meet up for team days – sometimes for training and updates, other times for non-work-related away days. And we do work together and support each other’s projects. The dynamic obviously works well as we have a long-established, cohesive team who knows what it’s doing.
So whilst the current health scare is highlighting the topic of working from home, it is something that we find has untold benefits and, through many years’ experience, we feel we have it perfected. We wouldn’t have it any other way!