One of the longer-lasting effects of the pandemic has been a shift to hybrid working. This new way of working has benefits for employees and companies.
Staff can have a better work-life balance, and some who may have previously been excluded from the workplace due to family commitments, or mobility issues, can participate again.
Businesses can conserve cash by reducing their office space and access a wider talent pool due to not needing to restrict their search for roles by individuals who can commute in daily.
To accommodate for this new way of working, finance leaders need to put in place cloud software, security measures, ground rules, and create a culture with opportunities for all team members to collaborate and speak up.
Moving to cloud accounting software will free employees to work from anywhere rather than being tethered to server-based software.
Most CFOs will have already moved their companies onto cloud-based accounting software. However, cloud integrations should be sought to empower remote working and efficiency to manage all finance workflows rather than just bookkeeping.
Cloud solutions should cover the likes of payables, sales invoices, group consolidations and inventory management (for businesses selling physical goods).
Direct integrations with core cloud accounting software should be implemented so that remotely working finance team members can benefit from greater efficiency gains due to not needing to replicate data across different systems.
These productivity wins will give finance teams the bandwidth to focus on the broader finance function rather than just data entry.
“An underlying attribute the [CFOs] want out of their finance team is agility. They need to be able to understand multiple aspects of a finance domain, not just one particular siloed area.”
When working remotely, there is a greater risk of data being misappropriated as communications occur virtually rather than in-person. There is also the chance of devices and associated passwords being shared to make payments.
All software tools that require logins should be set up so that users have to provide authentication from a secondary device, such as their mobile phone. Options consist of users having to key in a passcode sent to their mobile or scanning a QR code from an authenticator app (such as Google Authenticator or Microsoft Authenticator).
Employees across the business who need to generate expenses should be issued virtual cards. This will remove the risk of shared corporate cards amongst team members and enable them to procure products and services safely.
Hybrid working creates fewer opportunities to manage staff in person, so it becomes more important to establish processes for consistent delivery of recurring tasks.
Daily tasks include bookkeeping, with monthly deliverables covering management accounts and forecasting.
Manager-level finance staff should create cloud workflow documents and templates so team members can undertake and review them. It’s helpful to include tick boxes and dates next to tasks so that CFOs can have visibility and confidence that deliverables will be completed to meet their deadlines.That said, outside of core deliverables, finance leaders should be trusting of employees to do their best on a day-to-day basis.
“As leaders, we need to default to a position of trust. Our teams are trying to be productive while juggling the demands of being a good parent, lots of emotional challenges, and trying to do their best. We need to have empathy for that and be flexible.”
Switching from corporate credit cards to spend management platforms will allow finance teams to monitor the real-time spend of hybrid workforces.
Tools like Soldo enable employees to procure products and services, with real-time transactions being updated on the platform and pulled into leading cloud accounting providers bank feeds.
Employees are prompted to upload their receipts and categorise them from a chart of accounts that is also replicated from core cloud accounting platforms. This overcomes the issue of chasing for expense reports at month-end, which is even more challenging if employees with outstanding reports are not physically in the office.
Rules can be set up around company spending, such as overall limits and spend by category, and the finance team can step in and block cards for employees transacting outside of the expense policy.
Communication can become challenging for hybrid teams due to not having many occasions for whole teams to get together in person.
CFOs should create weekly recurring finance town hall meetings that can be used for team members to share knowledge, collaborate and share problems.
This open culture will help finance teams be more inclusive and provide equal opportunities for career development by taking in the views of a diverse workforce enabled by hybrid working.
On an episode of the CFO Playbook podcast Long Dinh, VO of Finance at Ada said:
“I think in today’s world, many people when they join a remote company may fear, if I’m not close to my manager, will I still have an equal chance of getting a promotion? That’s why we made a very clear decision at the leadership level that any strategy for the company must be met digitally, where we have everybody in the virtual room to contribute to this decision.”
The move to hybrid working creates a unique moment in time for finance leaders to automate and finetune their processes, as well as consider their staffing needs.
Demonstrating best practices of managing hybrid finance teams can help streamline the finance function and attract and retain talent.