If it’s midnight in Japan and 10 am in Dallas, how can two colleagues who are thousands of miles apart stay in touch? While that’s an extreme example of an expat working overseas, working remotely is more common than ever.
Among other aspects, one draw for younger CPAs to work in firms and companies is the possibility that you may be able to spend time away from the office. Naturally, there will be many parts of your day in which you’ll be in the workplace, but you may also find yourself venturing out for a variety of reasons: traveling to an audit site, visiting with clients in their locations, and even attending out-of-the-office CPE at seminars and conferences.
Besides the fact that more and more companies support working remotely, thanks to the cloud, smartphones, laptops and virtual private networks, staying in touch in efficient ways is no longer something only the tech-savvy can master, especially if you use the right tools. In no particular order, here are 5 technology tools to help:
#1: Google+. We all know the value of a Google search, but did you know that Google has a variety of apps to help businesses? Whether you need to search a topic for an obscure project or send a message to a colleague, Google has you covered.
For example, Google+ allows video (Google Hangouts) that can take the place of an in-person meeting or conference call with up to 10 attendees at no cost. Google’s remote desktop access allows someone else to see what you are seeing on your screen. Think about all the times you had technical problems and needed support or simply wanted to share information with a client. In addition, Google Docs allows you to share files if you do not have access to a server. Google Hangout’s instant messaging feature is easy to use should you need to send a quick message to a colleague, while Google Voice is ideal with one-number access for all of your phone lines. You can access any of these tools by logging into Google with a valid Gmail address.
#2: Skype. Skype has been around for a long time. For many, it’s still the industry standard because it’s ideal for international business and teleconferences. However, Google is giving it a run for its money by offering for free some of the things Skype charges for, including conference calls, screen sharing, and instant messaging. Check out this comparison to decide which tool works will work best for you.
#3: Dropbox. This is great file sharing tool because you are able to share and access files from any computer with Internet access. Even if you are on a South Seas island, you can log into your account, and access or share files with colleagues and clients as long as you can find an Internet connection. In addition, Dropbox is especially good for files that are too big to email.
#4: TeamViewer. Have a desktop in the office but need to do some work remotely? TeamViewer allows you to access your computer exactly as if you were sitting there.
#5: MiFi Router. If you’re travelling and don’t have reliable Internet access, use your cell phone carrier to ensure you can connect. MiFi is a mobile wireless router that allows you to connect to the Internet from anywhere that has a cell phone signal.
A note: If you’re in a company with rules or restrictions on what you are allowed to download and use on your computer, you’ll want to verify these and other tools are approved. In addition, your firm or company may have an approved list of software and technology for remote access. Check with your support entity to make sure.
Tools and technology are only half of the equation. Many CPAs work from home one or several days a week, so how do you stay focused at home for improved productivity? Here are 3 quick ways:
1. Keep regular office hours so that you are productive and responsive when colleagues and clients expect you to be.
2. Create a defined workspace that helps you feel productive; the dining table probably isn’t the best place to set up your office.
3. Use tools that help you attend to the matters at hand. StayFocused, a tool from Google Chrome, forces you to limit your time on websites unrelated to work, such as a sports or entertainment site. This tool is highly configurable, allowing you to block or allow entire sites and even specific sub-domains.
When you log off your computer at the end of the day, you want to say you had a productive day, regardless where you did the work. With cloud access to software and systems, as well as the tools mentioned above, working remotely should help you be more efficient and effective, even if working from the airport lounge in Frankfurt.
What is your favorite software or program to work remotely? Send a note to firstname.lastname@example.org.