Over the past several years, the work-from-home economy has been steadily expanding. Its growth quickly accelerated in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, which saw more organizations than ever before embrace flexible and remote work methods. Throughout 2020, company leaders who were at first skeptical of the work-from-home model were largely impressed with the resilience and high productivity of the remote workforce, according to NPR. Meanwhile, many employees have embraced the flexibility that comes with operating out of a home office.
As a result, this new way of working will continue to be adopted across industries. Based on a work-from-home experience survey, Global Workplace Analytics predicts that, by the end of 2021, about 25-30% of the workforce will be working from home multiple days a week. This includes professionals in more traditional career fields like accounting.
For accountants and related employees, the shift to telecommuting offers many advantages. But getting used to doing an accounting job from home will require some adjustment and good habits. By maintaining regular communication with your employer, a comfortable environment to work in, and a productivity-promoting routine, the experience can be enjoyable and successful for professionals in accounting working from home.
It’s natural for workers transitioning from physical accounting firms to home offices to have questions about the experience and what it might be like. Moreover, accounting professionals interested in remote work might be curious about the possibilities. Read on to discover answers to some remote accounting job FAQs — and learn best practices when working from home.
Can Accountants Work from Home?
Even though accounting is one of the oldest professions, it has since adjusted to fit in with today’s work-from-home model. Unlike many other jobs where employees must be present at a worksite to carry out their job duties, an accounting career allows a lot of flexibility.
Given that most accounting tasks are now carried out using computers, and the modern business world is ever-connected through digital tools and technologies, accounting working-from-home jobs are completely viable. Accountants who connect with clients through digital platforms and keep up records using cloud-based software solutions can work from virtually anywhere with an internet connection.
What’s the Best Way to Find Remote Jobs in Accounting?
During your job searching process, look for companies that hire remote employees. Each accounting practice will have a different approach to the work-from-home model, so you’ll have many variables to consider.
For instance, you might find a company that allows accountants to work from home part time and spend the rest of the week in the office. Or, you may locate a business owner who is seeking full-time accountants who can work remotely from a specific location. This is an easy way for large and small businesses to expand their geographic footprint while reducing overhead costs.
Defining what type of remote work setup you prefer will help you find the best fit for your needs. From there, you could set up a job alert that sends you listings with key phrases that describe your ideal role — such as “remote financial analyst,” “remote accounts payable manager,” or “virtual bookkeeping assistant.”
It’s also crucial to ensure that your resume and experience level meet or exceed the requirements for your preferred job. For instance, accounting employers will typically list a bachelor’s degree as a baseline qualification. You may also be required to hold a Certified Public Accounting (CPA) certification, which can be earned by meeting a specific set of educational requirements and passing the CPA exam.
If you’re still deciding on how to begin your accounting career, earning an online Bachelor of Science in Accounting is a great way to demonstrate to employers your ability to successfully work remotely. During an interview, you could use success stories from your virtual studies to illustrate how you can manage your time well and accomplish work at the highest level from any location.
What Are the Benefits of Pursuing a Career in Accounting Working from Home?
Whether you’re actively adapting to a new remote work model with an accounting firm or seeking new work-from-home accounting jobs, there are many advantages to consider. When you work remotely, you will be able to:
- Have total control over your office environment
- Avoid a long or stressful commute
- Save money on gas or public transportation
- Gain back a significant amount of time for other personal or professional activities
- More easily attend to at-home tasks like walking the dog, signing for a mid-day delivery, or picking up children from school
- Reserve more vacation days for relaxation, rather than errands and at-home responsibilities
- Prepare fresher, healthier lunches rather than ordering takeout
- Have more time for fitness and wellness activities
- Gain independence and the trust of your managers, colleagues, and client contacts
- Work in a way that is most productive for you without office distractions
- Make meetings and communications quicker and more efficient, using chat features and videoconferencing tools
- Travel and work from any location where you have reliable access to the internet
Are There Downsides, and Is It Easy to Work from Home as an Accountant?
Of course, no remote work-from-home situation will be perfect, especially at the beginning. For instance, you’ll need to address Wi-Fi connectivity issues on your own. And, from household chores to young children, distractions at one’s own home abound. Additionally, you might miss the collegial atmosphere or vibrant urban location of a traditional corporate office — virtual meetings don’t offer the same experience.
Luckily, there are several steps and simple habits any work-from-home accountant can follow to ensure their home office is one of positivity and productivity, rather than procrastination.
How Do You Work from Home as an Accountant?
In the field of accounting, working from home is similar to other remote jobs as well as office-based accounting jobs. As with any remote job, it’s important to set yourself up for success with the right tools and technologies, reliable internet access, and a functional, productive workspace. You’ll also need to keep open lines of communication and stick to a clear schedule.
Whether you’re just getting started in your career or making the transition to becoming a full-time remote employee, consider these tips and best practices for professionals in accounting working from home.
Ensure Your Company Has the Right Software in Place
Computer-based accounting work is only possible with the right infrastructure. But, as a remote employee, you will need to be proactive about letting your company know what you need to consistently produce good work. The remote nature of home accounting jobs means that professionals in these roles will rely more heavily on cloud-based accounting software and other lightweight solutions and supporting strategies.
For example, when completing tasks ranging from basic data entry to bookkeeping and accounts receivable, an accountant working from home will not have access to legacy systems available only from computers at the office. Remotely signing in to the company’s computer system may be another option. Either way, it’s important that the software supports the company’s needs as well as the remote accountant’s workflows.
Invest in Reliable Home Office Tech
Software is not the only IT consideration for remote accounting employees; you’ll also need the right hardware and reliable internet access. Work with your company to choose the right computer and other devices that will support your work. Consider upgrading your Wi-Fi plan for faster and more reliable internet access as well.
When an office computer gets glitchy, the company’s IT specialist can usually lend a hand. At home, if your computer, internet, or another tech necessity encounters an issue, it will be up to you to troubleshoot. Make sure you know who to reach out to when you need some computer expertise — whether it’s a remote IT professional with your company or a local tech expert who can quickly resolve the issue.
Give Yourself a Dedicated Workspace
Beyond making sure you have the right home office tech, it’s critical that you carve out a functional workspace in your home to encourage the highest level of focus and productivity.
Whether you have an entirely separate home office or a small desk with a laptop in the corner of your living room, a dedicated workspace is key to establishing boundaries for work-life balance. It signals to others that you’re at work and not available to attend to other household matters. But it also gives you the ability to arrange, organize, and adorn your space in a way that facilitates efficiency and productivity.
Set and Stick to a Clear Schedule
A remote accounting job might mean no commute, but it shouldn’t mean sacrificing a routine. By making an effort to get up and get ready, you’re sending your mind cues that you’re entering a part of the day that requires productivity and concentration.
Following a well-defined schedule will also benefit other stakeholders. You will need to make yourself available to colleagues, clients, and managers by articulating and sticking to a clear schedule. If someone needs to reach you by phone, chat, or email, they should be able to count on the fact that you’ll be available during regular business hours. Or, if your home job entails an offset schedule — with a later or earlier start and end time to accommodate other responsibilities — be sure to articulate this with anyone you work with.
However you work, the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants (AICPA) advises sticking to regular work hours with intermittent breaks. Taking a reasonable number of short breaks in addition to a lunch break will help you stay energized and focused until you’re off the clock.
Stay Accountable as a Remote Worker
As many organizations found after making the shift to remote work in the wake of COVID-19, telecommuting can create some tension for management teams who have difficulty trusting their staff to stay productive when they’re out of sight.
However, as Kate Lister, president of Global Workplace Analytics, notes in a work-from-home trend forecast, “When clients ask ‘How will I know if they’re working?’ I ask ‘How do you know they are working now?’”
Lister explains that seeing employees sitting in their office chairs isn’t an effective way to gauge their productivity. Rather, companies need to turn their attention to measurable results. Of course, this is a smart business practice whether or not employees are working remotely.
With this in mind, a staff accountant physically distanced from their accounting manager can establish key performance indicators to help all stakeholders understand what progress is expected and how the remote employee is performing. As AICPA notes, your managers will need to see your talents and skills in action to acknowledge them and appreciate the work you do.
Get Started with UAB’s Online Accounting Program
If you’re eager to enter a career in accounting working from home, you may thrive in the online Bachelor of Science in Accounting degree program from the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Collat School of Business. The AACSB-accredited program is completely online and will introduce you to the challenging and rewarding experience of learning, collaborating, and working online.
To learn more, reach out to an enrollment advisor today.