Whether traveling for business or pleasure, working on the road is a necessary evil for most accountants. No matter how much you promise yourself you’ll unplug, work still manages to creep its way into any trip or vacation, in spite of promises of flexible hours and work/life balance from your firm.
So if you’re going to do accounting work while traveling—and let’s face it, you are—you might as well do it right. Unfortunately, working away from the office and home carries with it unique security and productivity challenges. Here are some tips on how you can avoid or minimize those issues, allowing you to produce quality accounting work while traveling and get back to the joys of your trip faster.
1) Never work on public Wi-Fi or a public computer
Public Wi-Fi hotspots are notoriously dangerous. They’re a popular entry point for hackers, and the massive flaw recently discovered in the WPA2 security protocol, popularly referred to as the KRACK attack, has led experts to advise workers never to use them, period. It’s just too easy for a hacker to intercept passwords that will allow him to access the sensitive financial data of your firm and your clients.
Hotel business centers are perhaps the worst offenders. Hackers know that these facilities are practically guaranteed to be used to communicate valuable information, so they physically or virtually “camp out” at them to capture confidential data and sell it to the highest bidder or hold it hostage through ransomware.
If you absolutely must use a hotel business center, at least log in via Wi-Fi on your own device rather than from a public computer. Hackers can program various viruses and trojan horses onto public computers that can infect your network. Even worse, they can install keylogging software that maps your every move, exposing any passwords you enter on work or personal software and sites.
Nick Pasquarosa, founder and CEO, Bookkeeper360, recommends purchasing a mobile hotspot or getting one from your IT team. This enables you to avoid outside Wi-Fi networks and devices completely, keeping you online and productive via a much more reliable and secure connection.
2) Set clear, upfront expectations and boundaries
Just because you’ll have to do some work during travel doesn’t mean you should let the office dominate your entire trip. Communicate expectations and boundaries to your firm and clients upfront regarding when you’re willing to work and when you’ll be unavailable.
“It’s aggravating for a team to assume someone is available to help when they’re trying to vacation, and it’s aggravating for an individual to try to vacation while co-workers are constantly emailing or messaging for help,” Ryan Watson, founder and principal, Upsourced Accounting, said. “To avoid this, create windows of availability or expectations of turnaround times and stick to them.”
For his own vacations, Watson has a specific schedule he likes to use—one that keeps his colleagues happy while still allowing plenty of time for fun.
“When I vacation, I block an hour in the morning and an hour in the evening to check email and be available,” Watson said. “I’m clear that outside those windows, I’m available only in emergencies and I should be texted, not emailed or Slacked, to be reached.”
3) Be prepared for separation anxiety
One of the biggest challenges of working away from the office is being separated from the hardware and applications you use in the office or at home.
“Many accountants like to work on desktops with two or three monitors,” Dave Betz, chief success officer, Gineris & Associates, said. “Most of the time if they’re away traveling, they’ve got just their laptop. Some of them have these extended monitors, which is great. But if they don’t, they’re hampered by that, because they’re flipping between three applications on a single screen.”
With screen space at a premium, we recommend keeping applications open only when you’re actively using them. This may slow you down, but the loss of productivity will generally be less than if you are constantly shuffling apps on your laptop, tablet, and/or smartphone. Running applications in the background of your mobile devices can also quickly drain battery life. If your battery dies in a place where you can’t plug in, you’ll be completely sunk.
Before leaving on your trip, talk with IT to make sure you know how to log onto your firm’s network and critical applications from all of your devices. And try to develop a backup plan in the event that some or all of your hardware fails.
Melissa Diaz, CFO and shareholder, High Rock Accounting, shared a horror story with us that illustrates the importance of having a solid plan B.
“I was traveling in Dubai when the charging port on my computer decided it was the perfect time to stop working. The closest Apple store was about 30 minutes away by car, and I didn’t have a car anyway. I only had a few days left in the country, so I could not reliably leave my computer to get fixed without knowing how long it would take to be repaired. Luckily, my firm has a cloud password bank and tons of cloud software solutions, so I could access usernames and passwords for all of my important accounts through my husband’s computer,” Diaz said.
Find a better accounting job through Accountingfly
We hope these tips help improve your on-the-road accounting work experience. But the best tip of all may be to change your career path.
If you’re sick of working for an employer that requires you to work while you’re on vacation—or seeking a new accounting job for any other reason—check out the open positions listed on Accountingfly. Accountingfly is 100% free for job seekers, so you’ve got nothing to lose.