15 Best Practices for Working Remotely from Home

How To Work Efficiently From Home

Working from home is now the new normal. But, this is a new normal for most people. If you’re working remotely for the first time, you’ve probably encountered a few frustrating moments already.

To guide you through the transition, we’re making Procurify’s internal working remotely handbook available to everyone. We encourage you to use this as a template when creating your own remote work guide for your team. You can even download the template here.

Even though Procurify started working fully remotely on March 12, this isn’t the first time we’ve managed distributed work processes. Before the current economic shift, some team members were already remote, and other teams selected one day a week when everybody would work from home. So, you could say that we’ve been there, done that.

Shout out to our amazing Megan Murphy for creating this original working guide. We’ve added ‘Pro Tips’ in each section for people specifically working in accounting, finance, and operations as these functions come with distinct challenges. We hope our tips and tricks will make your new work life easeful and enjoyable.

Understanding the Challenges of Remote Work

The shift to successful remote work begins with understanding the differences between working onsite and offsite, and the challenges that may arise.

Five WFH Differences to Anticipate

We will address the best ways to approach and eliminate the challenges above in this guide.

Remote Work Setup for Success

To address the lack of community and lack of motivation addressed above, it’s crucial to adjust your physical body to work in a virtual world. The basic steps we recommend for setting up an efficient remote work flow:

1. Upload a human photo

Most organizations still run on a private internal network (rather than on the cloud). Accounting and finance professionals need quick and easy access to internal networks to access a myriad of files and documents. This is why a high quality VPN (virtual private network) is so crucial.

A VPN gives distributed team members safe and secure access to an organization’s internal network and data. While this may seem like an easy fix, many VPNs are slow. Opening one spreadsheet with a handful of tabs and multiple formulas may feel like a century as you wait for everything to load. Inefficient technology causes employees to lose motivation and become frustrated.

Speak to your IT team to implement upgrades for improved VPN connectivity. Also, provide reimbursements to all team members to upgrade their personal internet connections to the highest speeds.

2. Get the right equipment

Team members who work remotely will probably need the following pieces of equipment to be able to complete basic functions outside of their normal work environment:

Pro Tip:

Specific kinds of equipment and supplies may be required for certain finance and operations functions. Depending on your role and the sector you work in, you may require a printer, scanner, POS solution, RFID scanner, digital postage scale, logistics specific equipment, and other materials. More importantly, if your team is not set up for remote processes and relies heavily on paper documentation, you’ll need an efficient way to access what you need. Since you cannot bring the entire invoice drawer home with you (unfortunately), we recommend designating a specific person that is responsible for physically retrieving paper documents at the office, and scanning them to the rest of the team. We recommend Docusign, Adobe Acrobat, or another type of OCR system.

3. Designate a specific workspace

It’s important that you’re set up for success at home, and that means setting up an ergonomic and positive work space for yourself. Making yourself a designated work space is important. It’s the separation between personal and work. Without this, you’ll never be able to create mental breaks between work and life. Use the couch to entertain guests and watch movies? Keep it that way. Is the bedroom your sacred space for zen and relaxation? Remove the act of working there. Start creating separation to help you disconnect.

If you have children, you’re probably running into other challenges. Fast Company shares 11 quick tips to help parents work from home while the kids are around.

Kicking Off & Closing Out Your Day

Making sure team members are accountable for each other during challenging times is important. Putting in place certain processes help people stay connected and accountable.

4. Start your remote day with a routine

Morning Ritual: Set a ritual for yourself in the morning before you roll over and open your laptop. This could be as simple as getting out of bed and looking out the window before you check your phone. Taking a shower and having a cup of coffee. Ideally, plan time for exercising and stretching.

Work Kickoff: Depending how you communicate with your team, make sure to say “hello 👋” on Slack or whatever communications platform you use to start the day. This helps with maintaining human interaction.

5. Schedule a daily standup

Every remote team should have a daily video standup in place. This can be used to discuss goals for the day, accomplishments from yesterday, or just a quick hello or gratitude share. If you don’t have this in place with your team lead yet, reach out to them!

Pro Tip:

Finance and operations teams often work on a number of different cross-functional projects and regular communication is the key to success. Even a 15-minute daily standup with all employees can save hours of inefficient time. A daily stand-up is more critical during periods of reporting such as month-end and quarterly closes. In fact, depending on the duration of your month-end process, you may want to schedule a video standup at the beginning and end of each day.

In addition to regular standups with your core team, we recommend scheduling weekly standups with different departments (marketing, product, IT) to discuss budget variances and departmental reports so everybody stays on the same page. Video alleviates the pain of miscommunication via Slack and email. Remember to turn your camera on so you can feel like you are actually in the same room.

6. Update your status in Slack

It’s important that you communicate your availability and status as accurately as possible so team members know when and how to reach out. If you use Slack, consider setting up standard statuses. Here’s what we use at Procurify:

📅 In a meeting – Will auto update via Google Calendar Slack app if your status is unset. Read how to do this below.

🅰️ Away From Keyboard – You’re AFK for more than 15min, but haven’t signed off for the day

💤 Signed Off – Done for the day!

🌴 Vacationing

🏡 Working Remotely – Used to notify people that you’re not working from the office

Google Calendar Slack Bot
To install automatic status updates through Slack, go to the bottom of your Slack messages on the left and add Google Calendars.

Slack Shortcuts
Try It:
You can use the hot-key Command+Shift+Y to set your status. Try out this keyboard-shortcut-flow to set your status: Command+Shift+Y Tab x2 to ❌ in the text field. Enter to clear your status. Tab to the status you want. Enter x2 to pick it and Save.

7. End your remote day wisely

Work Close Out: Let your team know you’re headed out with a simple “bye 👋” and a status update to 💤 Signed Off.

Evening Ritual: This is how you OFFICIALLY close out your day. This is the “cya later computer, it’s me time”. Rituals may include putting your computer away in a drawer, walking over to the kitchen to have a glass of water, 5 minutes of meditation, or writing down something you were grateful for that day. This is your mental sign off.

Self Manage Your Workflow

Working remote leaves some people with the feeling of “am I doing enough?” or, “how will my manager know that I’m on track or see how much work I’m putting into this?” Nobody wants to be micromanaged or unrecognized for the things they’re doing. To help with this, keep your manager properly updated with your progress.

8. Write down your 3 Most Important Tasks

Writing down your 3 MITs each day helps you stay on track. This can be in your calendar, in your Google Drive, on a sticky note, or wherever you can go back and look at them to stay focused. When the brain starts wondering or feeling overwhelmed, go back and look at these.

Pro Tip:

If a daily standup as we recommended under item 5 is not possible, try using the DailyBot extension in Slack that acts as a virtual standup. DailyBot connects with each member via Slack to gather outstanding tasks, understand bottlenecks, and help teammates who are blocked. This is a great way to think about your MITs on a daily basis.

9. Keep yourself accountable

Build a visible project board for yourself that’s visible to your manager and team and build it into your meetings together. 

Can’t figure out where your days are going? Try blocking in your calendar what you spent time on. You can even do this reactively after you finish your task. Even if it was 30 minutes trying to figure out how to reformat a spreadsheet, put it in!

Pro Tip:

Managing different projects is challenging enough in an office. Being away from others only elevates this problem. Use a cloud-based project management tool like Trello, Notion, Asana, or Monday, or even Google Documents to keep track of everything that needs to be done. Transferring checklists and flows for crucial functions such as month-end close, collections, procurement, and payment online gives everyone a chance to alert others of their status, and keep an eye on what others are doing.

10. Meet regularly online

Keep your weekly 1:1 meetings with your manager and your direct reports. Even if you feel like you don’t have anything specific to talk about, make a point of turning your camera on and saying hello to each other. 

According to Lifelabs, ask for feedback during every 1:1 with your manager. Ask: “What is something you wish I or we did differently? What could I do 10% better? What’s working well?”

Pro Tip:

People adjust differently to change. Some team members may have a harder time than others. As a manager, ask for feedback on new remote workflows and what could be improved. For instance, accounts payable teams may have a harder time adjusting as they are no longer able to reach out and search for an invoice. Analysts may adjust quite well if they were never reliant on paper documents.

Remote Communication Basics

It’s hard feeling like you’re fully in the know when you miss out on that hallway chatter in between meetings. This means you might have to put in a little more effort to get the conversations going.

11. Elevate your communication

Over-communicate and add in context. There’s a difference between

“Can you send me the report today?” and

“Can you please send me your report today? I ask because I want to analyze it in time for our meeting.”

The former could be heard as stern or neutral. Adding context helps your team build improved systems-thinking and visibility into how things work.

Try It: Try adding in a context statement into one of your conversations.

Ask next-level questions. Most people stay on the surface of their conversations and this inhibits real connection and empathy. Instead, ask questions that help you learn more about the situation.

For example, if you ask “How did your meeting go?” and they write back “Good,” a next layer question would be “Great! What went well about it?”

Call out good work and share appreciation. Let people know when you see something working well! Procurify has a special Slack channel called #procurify-recognize where everybody can recognize and make mention of people who have gone above and beyond.

Staying Connected Beyond Work

Human interaction please! So you’re nowhere near your team, but want to stay connected beyond your daily meetings. Here’s how!

12. Plan online events

Just because people cannot physically be together does not mean events are out the door.

Consider creating a few recurring virtual friendly events for the company. Here are some ideas, straight from Procurify’s own calendar!

13. Create casual Slack channels

For members who may need more connection during the day, consider implementing these initiatives:

Mental Health Resources

Working remotely has its challenges, especially if it’s new for you.

14. Take care of yourself

Create an environment where everybody has the ability to work on themselves as people first. Whether this is taking the time to do an at-home workout, seeing a doctor, or joining a Virtual Happy Hour, take care of yourself first.

We recommend looking into these activities to decrease anxiety and elevate mental wellbeing:

Pro Tip:

Work demands vary depending on the time of the month and the season. Accounting and finance teams have greater loads at the beginning of the months to close the books and prepare reports. Operations and procurement teams need to be flexible depending on production and vendor schedules. Make sure your teams have extra motivation during these busier periods. For instance, sending gift cards for food delivery services can make a big difference in helping people maintain mental wellbeing.

15. Take time off if you need to

Some days, people need to take an extra day for themselves while making sure that they do not have to worry about taking days unpaid. We recommend you look at creating a similar program for personal days. Personal days are for the days when our mental health needs tender loving care.

The bottom line

We hope you’ve enjoyed these recommendations from Procurify. We encourage you to take this template and create your own branded WFH guide. Here is a Google document for you to download and make your own. Update this based on your unique culture, systems, and values.Our remote work guide is a live document so we can continually add new ideas. One thing we love doing is requesting feedback from team members through a Remote Work Feedback Form so we can ask for improvements and suggestions.

Visit our COVID-19 Resource Center for more guides and resources to help your teams navigate the challenges ahead.