Finance Industry

4 Challenges for Finance Teams Transitioning to Remote Work

The global workforce is becoming increasingly distributed. In the United States alone, according to FlexJobs, 3.9 million U.S. workers were working remotely in 2015. In 2020, that number is 4.7 million. By 2025, an “estimated 70% of the workforce will work remotely at least five days in a month.” This shift creates challenges for finance leaders who are using legacy systems to manage a new type of spend.

Companies not only have to implement remote-friendly software platforms and workflow processes, but they also have to find effective ways to virtually control spending while still empowering employees to do their jobs.

For finance teams, these changes shine a light on policies and processes that likely need updating—in and outside of a remote setting. Especially if they were unable to view and control company spend in-office, it becomes that much more difficult to do so remotely. However, the shift also gives finance the unique opportunity to streamline company spending. 

Challenge #1: Out-of-control employee spending

Home offices often aren’t equipped for full-time remote work. Many newly remote employees must quickly purchase supplies, such as computer monitors, keyboards, and software, as well as regular work-related items, like SaaS subscriptions. Unfortunately, all of this chaotic company-wide spending is difficult to monitor remotely.

Since using a physical shared corporate card isn’t an option, employees are making purchases on their personal cards and submitting expense reports to the finance department for reimbursement. This means fewer controls on employee spend, since many purchases are made without finance knowing about it.

When expense reports are submitted at the end of the month, finance teams become aware of a host of unexpected purchases for the first time. This means chasing down employees for receipts and other missing information, which is all the more difficult when employees are dispersed across locations and time zones. Furthermore, issuing unplanned reimbursements throws a wrench in any previously conducted financial planning. 

Solution:

Rather than rely on personal credit cards, give employees smart, policy-driven access to company spend. By placing spend limits on cards and tying them to a specific vendor, finance teams can ensure that no one spends over budget or outside of policy. This reigns in willy-nilly spending, without hindering employees.

Challenge #2: Maintaining team morale

It’s true that working remotely presents unique challenges. According to The 2020 State of Remote Work from Buffer, 20% of employees stated that communication and collaboration were the top struggles of working remotely, tied with loneliness; 12% struggled with distractions at home.

Many companies are aware that remote work can hamper employee morale, but in tight economic situations, they may not have the budget to devote to culture-building activities. But ignoring the social difficulties of remote work will negatively affect the motivation and productivity of your workforce. A strong culture may seem like a nice-to-have in the short term, but it is a must-have in the long term.

Take this opportunity to evolve company culture outside of an office setting. For example, if your company hosted monthly team pizza parties in-office, give employees virtual cards to order pizza from home, and then have a team video lunch call over Zoom to recreate the experience. Create new perks that proactively give employees access to tools for their transition to remote work, such as a music or meditation app.

Solution:

Developing a strong office culture for remote employees can be a challenge, especially with the lack of extra resources that many companies are experiencing, but it is an initiative that will make a huge difference. The key is finding ways to build culture without detracting from other initiatives that more directly impact the business’ bottom line.

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Challenge #3: Lack of transparency into company spend

Now, more than ever, finance teams must maintain complete visibility into company spend. With all the purchases happening across the organization as teams transition to remote work—coupled with the increased need to cut any unnecessary spending—they can’t afford to wait until the end of the month to review corporate credit card statements and expense reports to know how much money is leaving their organization.

Without real-time visibility, finance can’t correct spending in the moment. For example, multiple remote employees might purchase individual subscriptions to the same software tool. If finance had been able to view these transactions in real time, they could have intervened and stopped the duplicate purchase or negotiated a better price for the combined licenses. Transparency also allows finance to view and cancel unused zombie subscriptions or office services like cleaning and FreshDirect that are no longer necessary.

Economic shifts require companies to reforecast and reprioritize investments. This is challenging when finance has to rely on last month’s numbers to develop future plans. Without access to current spend data, finance teams can’t have productive discussions about where to cut costs.

Solution:

Real-time visibility enables finance to provide accurate and up-to-date reports at a moment’s notice, so they can confidently allocate capital. When an entire company is remote, finance needs eyes into purchasing at all times so they can keep a pulse on employee needs and optimize spending as it happens

Challenge #4: Constrained time and resources

Finance teams need new solutions to face the market shift, whether in the form of software subscriptions, contract employees, or automation. But they don’t necessarily have the time or resources to enact these systems.

Many legacy P2P systems are expensive, take months to implement, and require a lot of IT support to get up and running. This doesn’t even account for the time needed to onboard and train users once the software is rolled out, or the period before they start seeing the benefits.

Finance has an immediate need for ready-to-work resources that can be implemented quickly and immediately start yielding results. Waiting for long implementations or holding off until IT resources and budget are available isn’t an option for companies trying to get ahold of spend in this uncertain time.

Solution:

Adopting a distributed spend management platform is a quick win for finance teams and the organization as a whole. With fast, IT-free implementation, this solution can get up and running within two weeks, and is easy for employees to use. Finance will gain complete control and visibility into company spend, making it easy to identify where to cut costs, reallocate capital, and empower remote employees to buy the things they need.

Turn remote work challenges into opportunities

Now, more than ever, companies are focused on employee spending. They must act quickly to ensure that spending is controlled and visible in real-time, and that employees are empowered to succeed in a remote setting.

The shift to remote work has its challenges, but it also presents an opportunity for finance teams to proactively support the future of their company. With the right tools, finance can reign in spending and provide valuable insights that are critical to business strategy.