Getting the balance right: How much flexibility should you offer?

Hybrid working has increasingly become the norm over recent years, with many of the largest companies in the world adopting a more flexible approach to splitting time between being in the office and working from home. Think big names like Google, Amazon, and HSBC. But what’s the right balance with hybrid working?

It’s reported that the majority of companies have adopted a three/two split, with employees on site for three days per week and working remotely for the other two. Whilst this appears to have become the standard split, why is it the most favoured and is this the best approach for accountancy practices?

First, let’s explore some common perceptions of working in the office vs working remotely:

You can’t nurture client relationships remotely

Public practice accounting has seen significant evolution in recent years with most firms embracing new technologies and modern ways of working. Accountants are able to easily connect with clients thanks to an array of technology, including video meeting software for regular client meetings, video recording software to prepare training and demonstration videos, and cloud accounting software that provide a collaborative platform for various processes.

What’s more, firms are expanding their client bases from the local town they’re based in to across the country and even internationally. This means that gone are the days of firms working solely within their local area and visiting nearby client premises. Whether an accountant is sat in the office or working remotely, it’s likely that a video call meeting will be easier and more cost-effective than hosting an in-person meeting.

You have to be in the office to manage a team

Whilst the shift to hybrid or remote working has changed the dynamic of team leadership, it’s incorrect to think that it’s impossible to manage a team that isn’t based in an office. Whilst the traditional management model consisted of in-person supervision with direct communication and clear workflow oversight, managers are able to implement new technology and processes to ensure effective leadership for those working remotely. By prioritising clear and frequent communication and focusing on results generated over physical presence, team leaders can maintain an effective dynamic across the team.

Staff aren’t productive when working from home

This is perhaps the biggest hybrid working myth that has been busted by many companies that have embraced the modern way of working. In fact, working remotely, whether fully or on a hybrid basis, has been proven to boost productivity in several ways. The timely and expensive commute is cut, a greater work/life balance is offered, a more comfortable and personalised working environment is enjoyed, and a greater amount of focused and uninterrupted time is recorded. All of this contributes to less stress, a reduced likelihood of burnout, and an overall improvement in job satisfaction.

The connection between job satisfaction and productivity cannot be argued and as such, a hybrid working model provides better benefits to staff and increased return on investment for the firm.

What’s the right amount of flexibility to offer?

Whilst some firms are offering fully remote positions, which attract high volumes of talent, not all companies are ready to take the plunge. So, what’s the balance? Whilst many large companies are adopting the three/two model, this isn’t the only option. You could consider offering one day a week from home as a middle ground, and what’s good about this approach is that staff could take their day from home on different days from each other, meaning there’s always a selection of staff in the office every weekday.

It’s also worth considering how you could attract a wider talent pool by increasing the number of days your employees can work from home. The average commute for workers in the UK is around 30 minutes, which staff will be happy to do four or five times a week. But what about that truly exceptional candidate who is based 60 minutes from the office? It could be a great opportunity for them, they could add real value to your team, and perhaps they’d be happy to commute this distance two or three times a week. Would you rather lose out on that talent than offer greater flexibility?

We’ve talked about the benefits of hybrid working within public practice accounting several times before, and as experts in recruiting accountants into practice across the UK, we know what is important for standout candidates looking for new opportunities. One of the main requirements is hybrid working and forward-thinking firms that want to champion modern ways of working will embrace the flexibility that has become norm within the sector and across the wider employment market.

Earlier this year, we ran a campaign aimed at helping firms fight the hiring crisis by shaking up the way they recruit. Take a look at why embracing hybrid working came out on top as one of the key steps to securing and retaining top talent.

Here at Public Practice Recruitment Ltd, we not only match talented candidates with new and exciting job opportunities, but we also work with firms to scope out their recruitment needs and provide expert advice on the direction of travel as the hiring landscape continues to shift. If you’d benefit from an expert sounding board, we’re here to help. Contact the team today.


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