Lessons Learned From Working Remotely As An Accountant
Below is an article originally written by Brandi Shuttera, an Accountant at PowerToFly Partner Zapier, and published on November 30, 2018. Go to Zapier's page on PowerToFly to see their open positions and learn more.
When most people think of accountants and accounting jobs, they think of someone sitting behind a desk in an office, meeting with clients, and dealing with piles of paperwork. Working from home—without any face-to-face meetings or paper handoffs—might not seem possible.
When I first looked at the possibility of finding an accounting job I could do remotely, the odds didn't look too good. Most of the accounting jobs that were open to remote work were tax-related, which didn't align with my current accounting experience and was not the type of job I was interested in. Considering the amount of paperwork staff accountants typically deal with and how closely I worked with others at my in-office job, I figured accounting was out of the question when it came to working remotely.
Fast forward to a few years later…I came across a job opening at Zapier, a 100% distributed company, for an accountant role and knew I had to go for it! I had already set up an office at home that was a happy environment that I was ready to use. I also saw other benefits of being able to work remotely other than utilize my new happy space:
- Save time and money by removing the commuting portion of my day: over 13 hours a month on time and $80 a month on my gas and even auto insurance (since I was using my car less, my auto insurer lowered my rate).
- Reduce my carbon footprint by at least 2.3 metric tons of CO2 a year!
- A chance to benefit my health and well-being. Working from home allows me to make healthier meal choices, work in a cleaner office environment (and I get to control the thermostat!), and use my commuting time to jump on the treadmill every once in a while.
- The ability to work from anywhere such as coffee shops, co-working spaces, or visiting friends and family.
I was nervous at first since I didn't know what to expect. How would an accounting position work in a remote world and how easy would it be to balance my work and home life, since my home was now also my work? Now that I'm six months in, the transition from working in such a paper-heavy environment to a practically paper-free one was easier than I thought. It ispossible to have a role that's not traditionally remote-friendly and still thrive.
Working Remotely as an Accountant: Lessons Learned
Meetings: When I worked in an office, I sat through many meetings that were either scheduled or impromptu, and there's nothing different in a remote setting other than it's via video conferencing. (Well maybe that and the elimination of having to find a conference room that hasn't already been booked.) It's just as easy to have impromptu meetings here at Zapier as it would be in any office. Spin up a Zoom meeting and share the link in your Slack channel and you can have that same sort of spur of the moment meetings, as long as all the participants are online at the same time.
Communication and water cooler moments: Communication is key when it comes to working on a remote accounting team. In my past experiences in working in an office, I would find out information from just hearing other conversations happening around me that gave me context of what was happening with the rest of the team. With remote work, you don't get that opportunity in the same way. But then there's Slack.
"Default to Transparency" is one of our company values, so it's good practice to use public channels as the main form of communicating in Slack even if your question is specific to one person. This will help keep the rest of the team in the loop on what others are working on and prevent folks from feeling isolated. Plus, if you have fun Slack channels set up like "#fun-food," you get the same camaraderie as you do in an office, but just at everyone's most convenient times.
Work: As for the accounting aspects of working remotely, I've found it's not much different from working in an office. We still have a weekly team meeting, 1:1 meetings, collaborate on shared files, knock out month-end financials together, and ask for each other's help/perspective on tasks we are working on. We use a lot of cloud-based apps that allow us to share and work on files together.
- With Quickbooks Online we are all able to log in to add in journal entries, run reports, import transactions vs the desktop version which would limit access to one person.
- Sharing spreadsheet files are easy with the ability to save Excel files in Box, or use Google Sheets and Excel Online, which both allows for the team to work simultaneously on one file.
- We also use Google Docs often when working on writing policies and company announcements. It's a great way to share your work with the team and allows for everyone to add notes and editing suggestions.
- Notejoy is another tool we use to collaborate notes as a whole for the Ops team. We've used this tool to track our weekly meeting notes, draft our team's weekly update post, and save any other notes that would be helpful to share with the team.
Zapier: Creating Zaps (our word for automated workflows between apps) has helped me decrease the time I spend on mundane tasks and helps to keep me up to date on tasks I need to work on. I use one Zap to reduce the amount of time I spend saving invoices that we receive to our box folder, and another to alert me on who has turned in an expense report. And yet another Zap to automatically add cards to my "To Do" Trello board for weekly recurring items.
Working remotely may seem like a foreign concept in the accounting world, but when you're set up with the right applications and an awesome team, it's totally achievable! (P.S., Zapier's fully remote and hiring.)
It's been six years since Sarah Cooper graced us with her 10 Tricks to Appear Smart in Meetings. But how on earth can we appear smart in our new virtual world, in which for many of us, going to work is just sitting in one long series of probably-not-necessary Zoom meetings?
1. Dial in.<p>Dialing in rather than joining via the link instantly boosts your credibility. Who calls into Zoom meetings? People who are still busy and important enough to be leaving their houses! But you needn't actually be one of those people, or even more than a foot away from your computer to pull off this maneuver. (Remember, this article is called *seeming* smart, not being smart.)</p><p><strong></strong><em>Bonus: </em>If it's a large meeting at which attendance will be taken, the person running the meeting will inevitably ask, "Who's calling in from 443-322-2121?" That's when you raise your metaphorical hand, jump off mute, and say "[Your name] here. Really looking forward to hearing your perspective on [meeting topic]." And voila! You've stolen the meeting spotlight.</p>
2. Don't come on camera—ever.<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzQ0ODU5OS9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzNjMwNjI3OX0.4fLyq2CvkZAJ7n_03esZepY37mOdyGdDdTEUYt5XEU0/img.png?width=980" id="bc7e6" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="fbbf21cc5d8c863b30654ae6993b04f5" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" /><p><br></p><p>Much like the "dial in," this technique works because it makes you appear aloof. If <em>The Crown has </em>taught me anything, it's that the key to maintaining a sense of mystique and prestige is to keep people at arm's length—and if you absolutely <em>must</em> touch them, wear a glove.</p>
3. Only communicate via chat.<p>Once you've mastered the art of staying off camera, you can level up by communicating exclusively via the chat box. Don't come off mute at all, even if the speaker asks your opinion. You are the elusive chatter and you will not be forced into actually participating in said meeting.</p>
4. Ask to share your screen.<p>Being aloof is great, but it's all about balance. Sprinkling in some active participation will really shock and impress your colleagues if you catch them off guard, so save this technique for when you've strategically <em>not </em>participated in a string of meetings.</p><p>Spend a few minutes prior to the meeting prepping a few inspirational slides with words like "synergy," "optimization," and "redefining 'culture'", or spend a few minutes poking around in Google Analytics. </p><p>Then wait for the opportune moment to say, "Can I just share my screen for a moment? I have some really interesting data I'd like to share...." and BAM — brilliance established.</p>
5. Show off your Zoom-saviness.<p>Try saying, "You know you can mute people, right?" to the host when they beg whoever's got the lawn mower and crying baby in the background to put themselves on mute for the nth time.<br></p>
6. Create an alter ego.<p>This tactic requires commitment, but the pay off is certainly worth it. Join the Zoom meeting from your normal account + name, and then join it again on a second device from an alias. Have your alter-ego ask some probing or stat-based questions in the chat and have the answers ready ahead of time. It should work something like this:</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;"><strong>Your alter ego Charlene</strong><strong>:</strong> "Does anyone know what percentage conversion rates increased by in Q2?"</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;"><strong>Real you</strong>: *doesn't miss a beat* "It looks like Charlene has a question in the chat. That would be 36%."</p><div>Never mind that no one on your team knows who Charlene is or why she's at this meeting, they'll be too blown away by your brilliance to notice. (Bonus points if you use this strategy in conjunction with techniques 1, 2, 3 or 4!)</div>
7. Place an obscure object in your background that exudes intelligence.<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzQ0ODYxOC9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYwNzk5Njg2Mn0.V9_-3Ij3v_QndseqlrXRt5Nn39EJ97-itjls5zzYPf8/img.png?width=980" id="a369d" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="604a2f04b53c2e3bc801bfa5256f367b" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" /><p><br></p><p>We're talking a telescope, or perhaps a hardcover copy of <em>War & Peace </em>(no one need know that its only purpose in your life is as a makeshift yoga block).</p><p>If you don't have any suitable props at your disposal, do not despair: download some screenshots of Sheldon's apartment from <em>Big Bang Theory </em>or the chalkboard in <em>Good Will Hunting </em>and use those as a virtual background.</p>
8. Ask "Is this really the best course of action given the current climate?"<p>Economic collapse, COVID, racism… No need to specify whether you're referring to one or all of the above; just sit back and watch your boss squirm amidst the ambiguity.</p><p>This strategy pairs very well with techniques 2 and 3. You can prep additional vague-but-probing questions ahead of time and pepper them into the chat box throughout the meeting:</p><ul><li>How will this scale?</li><li>Do we really have the bandwidth for this right now?</li><li>What's the value-add here?</li></ul>
9. Remind everyone that you have a paid Zoom account.<p>"Oh, it looks like we're getting the 40-minute warning. I have a paid account, do you want to switch to my room?" It's helpful, with just a touch of condescension. Everyone knows condescending people are smart. And everyone knows that people with paid Zoom accounts are super important.</p>
10. Tell everyone you have a hard stop.<p>When pressed for details, share your philosophy on "work-from-home" balance and how committed you are to getting up once an hour to walk to your refrigerator.</p>
11. Ask the screensharer/host to "pull something up" for everyone.<p>Ask the presenter to navigate to a screen that only you know how to navigate well. Laugh maniacally while they suffer from crippling performance anxiety. Let them struggle for as long as is tolerable before saying, "Oh you know what? I can just share my screen if you want. That would probably be easier." BAM you're the hero. Don't worry, no one will even pause to consider that you could have proposed this course of action from the start.</p>
12. Say Zoom fatigue as many times as possible.<p>If you're too tired to employ any of the other strategies, just say "I know everyone is experiencing a lot of Zoom fatigue, so we can keep this meeting short." Then hang up as quickly as possible. Meeting averted! </p><p>After all, there's no better way to demonstrate your intelligence in a virtual meeting than to demonstrate why it wasn't really necessary in the first place. </p>
A five-step framework for addressing systematic racism at work
The world has changed in the past few weeks.
We're watching corporations and organizations across the world come out in support of Black lives in droves. Many of those organizations are doing so for the first time in their history.
I sat in front of my CEO to discuss several complaints of racism. I was new to my role as a Culture Director. I was nervous about his reaction to the complaints. But I also knew he strongly supported developing this new department; I knew that he would take the right steps. So I was shocked when I heard him say sheepishly, "I don't know, Noelle...all of this stuff about racism. I just don't see it. I don't even see color. I'm pretty much color blind."
Living in the midst of a pandemic has brought about a whole host of changes and challenges for workplaces and employees. One of the most notable? Virtual interviewing. With most on-site interviews on hold for the foreseeable future, it's important that you be prepared to make a great first impression—virtually.