The pandemic has ushered in a new model of working, with many businesses considering adopting more flexibility in the longer term. With a longer-term shift to hybrid working seemingly on the cards, having the right foundations for productive team working has never been more important. Recent survey data has acknowledged that there is a shift from employees wanting to work remotely at least half the time. One of the most cited barriers to hybrid working and the blended work approach of having staff and outsourced functions is the dip is productivity.
In the virtual finance team, we have worked under a hybrid model for a long time given the nature of the service we offer. Our clients have different needs at different times, and we are accustomed to a hybrid approach. With our clients we have a mix of virtual and in person meetings and navigating that mix is like navigating the challenges that arise with hybrid working.
One of the first areas to establish is the “how”. Being explicit about 'how' teams work is important. Alongside a commitment to carrying out tasks, it's important to be committed to the approach you want to take as a team. How do you want to share ideas, challenge, and support each other, add in broader perspectives? High-performing teams often have a set of agreed rules about how they want to communicate, how frequently, how to give and take feedback, how to reflect and learn, how to keep improving. This focus on the how applies to staff, contractors, and outsourced areas of the business. We no longer are in the position of having our teams sit next to us or along the hall so establishing the how is fundamental.
Communication is key to making hybrid working a success. Good communication with teams comes from effective technology that makes keeping in touch as easy as when you sit side by side. Communication however is underpinned by policies and procedures that are documented and transparent. This way everyone knows what they are working to achieve and understand the parameters. Working with a remote relationship means that assumptions will never work. Transparency and communication are even more important than they were before. When we are onboarding new clients, we ensure that we have a documented charter of expectations so that everyone is aware of the relationship rules. This isn’t to measure performance against but to ensure that without regular face to face contact there is no dubiety over expectations.
A hybrid working policy can improve productivity, moral and employee mental health. However, studies have shown that it can lead to isolation if home workers are unsure of who to turn to with questions. A hybrid model in conjunction with virtual finance means that communication lines remain open at all points. There is always someone to turn to and answer your queries and questions.
Technology is undoubtedly key to truly embracing hybrid working. Technology can enable teams to work smarter and collaborate more effectively. The use of video conferencing means that you can collaborate from different countries, time zones with multiple team members at once. The ability to store financial data in a cloud solution means that it can be accessed, reviewed and amended outside of the 9-5. By having this flexibility teams can work smarter not harder. The death of paper files has undoubtedly been welcomed by accountants but perhaps this has caused you to rethink your finance team and their roles. Do they need to be in the office? Can the finance admin be used more effectively in a different department? Has your business seen an upturn in demand? Having a virtual solution means that you can turn up the volume dial at any point to receive the support you need when you need it.
If you would like more information, contact Virtual Finance Function Director Lauren McIlroy, or your usual AAB contact.