Managing business expenses for remote workers
Both submitting and approving expenses are a hassle. Submitting receipts, getting approvals, and logging into multiple banks and credit accounts make expense management a less-than-fun activity for many organizations.
Keeping track of all outgoing funds is hard when everyone is in a single office — let alone when you’re trying to manage the multiple accounts of a remote team.
So, how do you manage business expenses for your remote team?
First, it’s about understanding the nature of specific expenses as well as the opportunities they cause. Then, it’s a matter of finding the right solution that consolidates expense management while empowering your dispersed workforce (instead of frustrating them).
Recognizing unique remote expenses and issues
Remote work is a powerful tool for organizations. Many fast-growing and successful businesses are 100% remote. And most businesses use some sort of remote workforce, including contractors.
However, a team without an office creates both unique challenges and expenses.
Let’s cover both.
Unique remote expenses
Dispersed teams have many of the same expenses as an in-person organization. Yet, remote work also brings unique line items on your reports, including the following.
Even those who perform only office-type work often travel in a remote company. While infrequent, there are get-togethers and in-person meetings where a part or the whole of your team meets.
Managing these expenses means either:
Having employees submit receipts and get reimbursed
Bulk-purchasing tickets, hotels, etc. and distributing those details to the team
Doling out credit card details to individual team members and then sorting out the transactions when you get the statement
None of these options are ideal, which makes finding the right solutions vital (which we cover a bit further down).
Team budget items
For remote teams working on specific projects, there are regular budget items. These expenses include things like:
Stipends and employee perks: In the office, there’s the luxury of having snacks, buying the whole team lunch and even having a gym (either in-office or closeby). Remote teams want these perks, but they often have to come in the form of a stipend or submitted expense.
Required materials for work: Hard materials range from product prototypes to hardware (like laptops, printers and other necessary physical goods required for the job). If these things break or need repair, it’s a bit more cumbersome to replace them remotely, because it means unique expenses usually paid for by the remote employee/team using the equipment.
Software subscriptions: Software subscriptions are online, meaning this expense is a bit more manageable. However, depending on the nature of remote work, it’s likely something your remote workers understand better. For example, a marketing team may need to try new social media tools and require a bit more autonomy in signing up for them.
One-off and recurring projects
Project management and expense management are inextricably linked, yet they aren’t always clearly joined within an organization. Projects have expenses, but a clear system of tracking and approvals isn’t always present.
These expenses range from events (such as those two or three team get-togethers per year), to new product development, to marketing initiatives. Any sort of individual project that’s one-time or recurring goes here.
It may feel a bit vague, but you’re already likely thinking of projects (and their expenses) that fall into this category.
Potential expense management issues from remote teams
Now, let’s cover issues that arise from remote expense management — both those for your finance team and the rest of the remote staff.
Getting an email trying to speed up approval for a project expense is like nails on a chalkboard for management and finance teams. Another peeve is getting emails from employees following up on reimbursements.
The point? Slow approvals are a pain for both sides of the equation. They’re also a potential problem for the business itself:
A large number of approvals, receipts piling up, and not knowing exactly what you’re (the accounting department) paying for are all headaches.
The slowdown affects progress and potentially frustrates teams trying to move forward quickly. (This problem is even more trouble for multi-entity businesses.)
Individuals also become frustrated when waiting on money owed for things they need to do their work (not great with a talent shortage).
Note: You can also combine expense management with a virtual card solution, creating more fluidity for the team while keeping better track of all expenses.
Credit cards, multiple bank accounts, and a stable of tools to scan/send receipts all create a mess of logins. It takes weeks to really get into a flow of which to log into first and what to do next.
Reconciliation and categorization
Then, once you have all of the expenses figured out, checks written and account payables all caught up, you still have to reconcile and categorize everything in your accounting software!
The point is that remote teams create multiple streams of unique expenses and transaction types, leading to a trickier reconciliation process. This is why you need a solution that simplifies and reduces the number of steps in your workflow.
What to look for in an expense management solution
A 360-degree view of expenses
You need a tool that combines all accounts and expenses into a single login. (100% remote, a mix of in-office and remote, using remote contractors, or all of the above.)
Limiting the number of tools to see and approve expenses keeps you in better control of your cash flow while speeding up your remote team.
Fast expense approval
The right solution means quick approvals in a couple of clicks, not piling up till the end of the month for a frantic approval spree.
With Airwallex’s expense management solution, you can eliminate reimbursements by getting notifications for approvals and seeing card transactions in real-time. See expense submissions quickly while understanding who they’re coming from (and what project the expense is for).
Better consolidation control and attribution
A tool that helps manage remote teams includes a way to store all miscellaneous tax invoices and receipts so you will always have a grip on payments. Nothing comes due that you don’t know about.
For example, Airwallex allows you to set notifications of expenses beyond the scope or regularly set limits. These notifications make for quick resolutions with the team to get everyone back on track — before the bill comes due.
Plus, you can sync all expenses with your Xero account for fast reconciliation and categorization.
Airwallex has built-in expense management
Oyster prides itself on making it easy to hire and pay employees from anywhere. But we also partner with businesses that can facilitate other aspects of your international business.
That’s why we’re excited to share Airwallex’s new Business Expense Management System with our clients. Track multi-channel and multi-country expenses from one place. And now the expense management system is included with Airwallex Borderless Cards!
The combination of creating virtual multi-currency cards for your remote team while tracking all of those expenses means you’ll finally have control over cash flow. Ready to get started? Create a free Airwallex account right here.
Margaret runs marketing for Airwallex US, working with great companies across eCommerce, consumer goods, consulting, and tech to deliver excellent experiences to shared audiences.
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