Tech tips for remote work

By Amy Vetter, CPA/CITP, CGMA

Technology is vital to CPAs’ work-from-home success. Follow this advice to help build a system that works for you.

Create the right configuration. For CPAs who may have been working from home for months in an improvised way, small improvements can provide big benefits as remote work stretches on. Take an hour or two to build your ideal setup. Buy surge protectors (not power strips) to facilitate easy wiring. Cords that may need to be unplugged should be ready at hand, while those that can stay plugged in can be out of sight. Double up on important items, such as backup batteries, computer cords, and routers.

Make the most of your webcam. Many computers come with a webcam, but even so, you may want to assess the quality and possibly upgrade to an external webcam. Even if your computer does not have a webcam, you can plug in an external one through a USB port so you can turn it on during meetings. Face-to-face interactions are key to maintaining strong relationships with your staff and clients.

Improve your Wi-Fi. Another important factor in your tech setup is your home internet connection. Odds are, your upload and download speeds dropped dramatically the second you started working from home. That's not necessarily a problem, provided you're able to do everything you need to do. If not, you may need to invest in a higher tier of service.

If you already have a high-speed connection, you should look at how you're using it. A powerhouse connection shouldn't be run through an inexpensive modem supplied by your internet provider. A quality router, such as one with tri-band capability, will improve your wireless performance tremendously, especially if you work in a larger space.

Have a plan for sharing bandwidth. You should consider how and when your internet is being shared. With children home and many of your neighbors working from home as well, you may see lag time.

If you can avoid it, don't have more than one videoconference going on simultaneously in your home. It's key for everyone you live with to communicate when they have essential video meetings so you can try to adjust schedules as much as possible to avoid using too much bandwidth. You can create a shared calendar with your family or go old school and write up a schedule to post on your refrigerator. If you expect to tie up a lot of bandwidth, consider wiring directly using an ethernet cable.

Declutter your digital workspace. Are a million icons displayed across your screen? Is your dock full of icons for applications you never even dream of using? Do you keep open dozens of browser tabs for no particular reason? These are objects you have to wade through to get to what you need. Keep the stuff you use every day, devise a system to get there in as few clicks as possible, and leave the excess out of sight.

Editor's note: A version of this article originally appeared in CPA Insider on Sept. 8, 2020.

By Amy Vetter, CPA/CITP, CGMA, the CEO of The B3 Method Institute. To comment on this article or to suggest an idea for another article, contact Jeff Drew, a JofA senior editor, at Jeff.Drew@aicpa-cima.com.

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