Working Remotely in the Digital Age

Forty-three percent of American employees spent at least some time working remotely in the past year, according to a recent Gallup report. Telecommuting – as you might guess – boomed in the '90s in the early days of the internet, but the concept actually dates back to the 1970s. Working remotely is a growing phenomenon, and the more tech we have, the easier and more efficient it is to do.

Working Remotely in the Pre-Internet Days

Though it may be hard to fathom how one could work remotely without the technological spoils our modern world affords us, the term "telecommuting" was actually coined in 1973 by former NASA engineer Jack Nilles, then the Director of Interdisciplinary Research at the University of Southern California. Nilles' research on the subject illustrated so many benefits that he projected the concept would become the more common manner of working within the next two decades.

Technology took a little longer than expected to catch up. Back in the '70s, working remotely as an accountant required a lot of clunky technology, so it was usually just working from a satellite office instead of the main office downtown. It required a terminal to be connected to a mainframe at the corporate headquarters, all while using the telephone lines as a sort of network bridge.

Once you had your satellite office up and running so that you could access all of your client data and transmit your work, it was usually smooth sailing, though the information transmission was incomparable to what we are familiar with using today.

Back then, the majority of accountants didn't rely on computers to do their work. QuickBooks® wasn't even around yet, and many small businesses used one-write systems. As such, accountants found it easy to work remotely because their work wasn't tied down to any specific expensive technology, as long as they had their client files on hand and a trusty TI-58 or TI-59 to crunch the numbers.

In the 1980s and ‘90s, as computer technology grew, the idea of telecommuting changed.

Telecommuting in 2017 is a drastically different picture than it was 20, 10 or even five years ago. While in the past, working remotely had been reserved for days when you had to stay home with your sick kid, or when inclement weather made your commute impossible, the dawn of the internet and the plethora of accompanying technological improvements changed the rules.

Nearly 3 percent of the U.S. workforce, or 3.7 million employees, work remotely at least half the time, according to the most recent survey results on the subject conducted by Global Workplace Analytics. Featherweight laptops, dizzyingly fast internet speeds and cloud-based software, such as QuickBooks, allow us to manage our work from anywhere. Every step of the accounting process has been streamlined thanks to technology.

  • Client communication is easier than ever. All it takes is a quick email to ask a question or request supporting documentation.
  • The use of electronic signatures has simplified filing processes.
  • The government's electronic filing protocol has radically improved the processing of tax documents.
  • You can digitally review all records and examine any of the necessary reports to sort out your clients' books from QuickBooks Online Accountant. The latest version even offers built-in practice management features to help you manage your work.

Though the business world has become more complex in the last 50 years, accountants’ work can be more straightforward thanks to technology. When you pair that with the improved work-life balance gained from working remotely, there's no reason not to try it out.