So you think you’re ready to join the craze and hire your first remote accounting employee. But are you really ready? Really, really legally, every contract signed, every hypothetical planned for, every policy in place ready?
Even if you’ve been spending months preparing for your first remote hire, you still may have missed a critical detail that will cause legal or financial problems down the road. Lucky for you, Accountingfly is here to help.
We met with cloud accounting leaders and employment attorney Daniel Harrell of Clark Partington Attorneys at Law, and with his advice, prepared the following checklist of some key duties you need to perform before hiring that first remote employee. This is not meant to be a complete list, so please consult your legal counsel while developing your remote worker policy.
1) Get the right infrastructure–and learn how to use it
Hiring remote doesn’t work unless you’re in the cloud already. So make sure you have the right infrastructure to support remote accounting work. You’ll need to use cloud accounting software or have a hosted solution where remote staff can join through a VPN. Video chat tools like Zoom or GoToMeeting are must-haves, as are team chat tools such as Slack.
“The most important first step in bringing on remote help is to set communication expectations and to have that infrastructure in place,” says Amanda Aguillard, principal, Aguillard Accounting, and co-founder, Bluewire Strategy Group. “I expect responses in Slack within a few hours, although it’s generally much sooner, and each of our staff has a standing weekly Zoom check-in meeting with me.”
While having the right technology in place is essential, understanding how to use it is just as important. Try out these solutions among your in-house staff first to get all the bugs worked out. Attend a few training seminars or watch tutorials on YouTube. Consult with an IT person or another tech expert to make sure you know how to milk every drop of productivity from the cloud.
2) Create a non-compete agreement
If you don’t already have a non-compete in place, it’s important you develop one before hiring remote staff. Make sure potential remote hires know there will be serious consequences if they try to poach your clients, work for your competitors, or steal your intellectual property. Consult an attorney to ensure the language in the NDA is enforceable across state and/or international lines. While you’re at it, it’s probably best to have your in-house staff sign the same NDA if they aren’t under one already.
“Agreements that cover confidentiality, trade secrets, non-competition, and other restrictive covenants are critical to protecting your business when venturing into the remote workplace,” says Harrell. “In the remote world, where there naturally is less oversight to an employee’s day-to-day operations, a strong restrict covenant agreement oftentimes is the best means to prevent an employee from harming business operations.”
3) Create a data security guidelines agreement
Create a policy that outlines how your team should be treating sensitive financial data in their homes or wherever they may be working. Remote staff should be using your online platforms and, if you require it, your hardware. Work with IT to ensure encryption, login, and disaster recovery policies are up-to-date and ready to take on the latest and most sophisticated cyberattacks.
This policy is essential not only to data security but also to client confidence. When your clients hear you’re going remote, they may worry their information will be compromised. Having a data security guidelines agreement in place will help you assure them that their data is safe in-office, in the cloud, in the hands of remote employees, and everywhere in-between.
4) Update your work-from-home policies
When working from home, your in-house employees should be subject to the same guidelines as your remote staff. Add your check-in requirements and remote work policies to a work-from-home policy guideline, and make every new hire sign the agreement when they accept your job offer.
“It’s really important that a firm have its internal processes and procedures locked down and documented before hiring virtual help,” says Aguillard. “This could be the sales process, onboarding of clients, the steps for monthly close or year-end reporting.”
Likewise, Harrell suggests that work-from-home policies are a great way to set appropriate expectations for employees.
“By thoughtfully creating these policies upfront, and amending them as new issues arise, you can ensure that employees know their respective rights and responsibilities in the remote environment and can cure certain avoidable issues before they become large problems,” he says.
Harrell also warns that, since the remote work environment is a young concept, HR laws and procedures can be several years behind.
“It’s critical to continue to educate yourself and your HR staff on changes and developments so that your company’s policies comply with the laws as they develop,” he says.
Recruit the best remote accounting talent
Once you’ve fully developed your remote worker policy, you’ll be ready (really truly legally ready) to vet and recruit your first remote accounting employee. But what follows next may be the most important step of all. Completing the above checklist won’t amount to much if you can’t find and hire talented, responsible remote employees.
This article was originally published on March 22, 2018 on Accountingfly Blog, a publication of Accountingfly, Inc. and is reprinted with permission.