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How to manage spend for remote teams

How to manage spend for remote teams

7 min read

It’s a new age. Every business in America has been forced to look at their workplace policies and most have explored remote work options. Some, like Twitter, are realizing that the temporary remote work solutions in response to COVID-19 could become a permanent reality. 

Whether you’re new to the remote work game or an old pro, one of the most troublesome elements of managing your remote teams is spend. Traditional expense management involves a few corporate cards that have to be physically retrieved from the finance office for purchasing, then returned with paper invoices and expense reports. 

As you move your workforce online, you ought to move your spend management online as well. Here are three tips for managing your remote team’s spend to thrive in the new business climate.

1. Start over with budgets

The financial needs for a remote team are different from those of a traditional in-office team. If you’re in the process of transitioning to temporary or permanent remote work in the face of COVID-19, you can’t rely on your existing budgets and projections. For example, your existing budgets may include funds for team lunch, work retreats, and travel—expenditures which aren’t happening in the current business world. Nearly all budgets could bear a little more scrutiny in these uncertain economic times, so be sure to start at square one. 

Take the time to model scenarios, forecast budgets, and brainstorm ways that your business can pivot. In this brave new world, you might consider using the Zero Sum Budgeting method by starting over at zero. Whether you budget by quarter, month, or even week, all spending needs to be submitted and justified. 

For example, your marketing team might submit a request or plan for their spend that explains how much they need and exactly how it will be used instead of just getting the same block of funds they got last quarter. Zero Sum Budgeting forces remote teams to intentionally work out a plan and communicate more clearly, which eliminates accidental or frivolous spending as well as providing a clearer target for financial goals. 

Ongoing budget analysis and spend justification can transform your business operations and improve your bottom line. Start from zero and create a living budget to spend smarter.

2. Get virtual, stay secure

If your teams are remote, it’s likely that their expenses are occurring online rather than in-person. In order to manage remote teams and their digital transactions, you may consider adopting a spend platform that allows for virtual card creation. 

Gone are the days of handing the physical card to an employee and telling them to return it to the finance cubicle by the end of the week. You want to support safe work from home policies, but you also don’t want to handle every single mundane purchase or subscription. And sending the corporate card in the mail or emailing financial data just isn’t a secure option. 

Virtual cards are the smartest way to allow your remote teams to make purchases online without compromising security or placing an undue burden on your financial team. With a platform like Divvy, approved individuals can generate virtual cards for online expenditures and link them to a specific budget with manager-set budget limits.

Plus, if you find that a certain service is no longer necessary with cost cuts or are worried that a vendor might charge you, you can freeze that individual card without all other card numbers being affected. No more worrying about misplaced cards, accidental personal purchases on the company dime, or predatory subscriptions charging you for more or longer. 

Security can be a big concern as companies rely more heavily on remote work. Whether it’s securing your software, protecting data, or making sure your payment information isn’t compromised, a little mindful preparation can keep your company safe.

3. Streamline lengthy approval processes

In legacy expense processes, employees have to get manager approval for a purchase, find the corporate card, make the purchase, submit receipts and expense reports, wait for accountants to validate receipts and invoices, verify with managers, and then wait 30-90 days to be reimbursed. Put simply, it’s a lengthy process.  

One feature of the remote work world that can be frustrating or empowering is asynchronous work. If you have to wait for approvals, information, or clarification from your manager before you can move forward with expenditures, you could be waiting a long time. 

One way to improve remote spend management is to use an expense platform that allows for seamless asynchronous remote spend. All employees can be issued a corporate card and given access and pre-approval to their relevant budgets. Managers see budgets updated in real time, whether employees are buying a client dinner at 8 pm or ordering promotional materials during regular business hours. 

This can also make it easier to continue to build company culture even while you’re trying to navigate new day-to-day operations. For example, at Divvy, we’ve seen customers use our cards to enjoy virtual team lunches, even when employees can’t be together in-office.

Remote work doesn’t have to spell limitations or lack of accountability for your team. You can seamlessly manage your remote teams through their spend in ways that actually improves your company and builds trust. We know—because at Divvy we make it happen.

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