The pandemic has, for many accountancy firms, answered the question of whether we all need to work in the same space.
And the proof is in the pudding. It’s a negative.
Technology and digital connectivity has reached the dizzying heights of being reliable and user friendly enough that offices around the globe were able to pull their teams physically apart but maintain virtual togetherness.
But as the direction of infection travel starts to look more and more positive (certainly in the UK), senior accountancy leaders will be asking the difficult question of whether a work from anywhere model could work for them.
What are the benefits to adopting a permanent work from anywhere policy in accountancy?
The biggest incentive to most firms will be on their bottom line. Ditch the expensive commercial office space in favour of sending IT equipment to your employees’ preferred place of work and the largest firms could save millions.
A great number of your workers will undoubtedly be happier; their work life balance will be more evenly distributed and commutes, travel expenses and impact on the environment will be lessened. And you’ll also find a greater freedom to tap into a global talent community without the hassle of immigration policy.
You can even consider options such as outdoor meetings to support employee mental health even further!
Sounds perfect doesn’t it? Surely a work from anywhere policy is a complete no brainer?
Only if you do it properly and really work hard to mitigate the risks it brings.
Which might include:
- IT and data security challenges. Slips to best practice might have been excusable in the early days of COVID when we were all having to change company policy overnight. But if you want to make your work from anywhere policy permanent you’ll need to be 100% watertight when it comes to data protection. Great accountancy firms will consider re-investing some of their rent savings into IT consultancy and or internal support.
- Communication and office camaraderie. It’s certainly possible to get your team connecting on a deeper level from remote locations all over the world, but it’s harder to do it organically. It will take time and planning and you can’t rely on great ideas being brainstormed around the water cooler in the way they once were.
- It won’t work for everyone. Some of your staff won’t have a reliable setup at home or they’ll find the requirement to work alongside their young children too tricky to master. You don’t want to be turning away great talent just because potential recruits can’t work from home. Your work from anywhere policy needs to include an option to work from an office, even if it’s a desk in a co-working space that you part fund. Or consider having a scaled down office with the option to hot desk or work permanently. This will give you the best of both worlds.
Ultimately the decision to adopt a permanent (but optional) work from home policy is likely to be a great move for your accountancy firm as long as you and your team can meet certain conditions and criteria.
Here’s a few non negotiable when it comes to making work from anywhere work for all:
- Make sure your contracts of employment are updated to reflect the new changes. And if you expect your employees to always be available for face to face team meetings and/or client meetings state just that. There needs to be room for flexibility or the policy just won’t work.
- TRUST. If you are going to allow your employees the autonomy to work from anywhere you can’t adopt a parallel policy of micro management. Most studies show that a work from anywhere policy increases productivity but you’ll soon upset your staff if you ask them to account for every minute of every working day.
- Make team building a priority and don’t let communication slip. Consider asking one team member each month to come up with a fun way to get together as a team and if COVID allows it, schedule a face to face meet up at least annually (every six months would be better).
- Review your recruitment procedures. Interviewing online is trickier but something we have masses of experience in (you’ll find plenty of support on our resources page.) A work from anywhere policy will mean you have a much deeper pool of talent from which to fish from! This is great news but you’ll want to consider working with a brilliant recruiter to make sure you reel the right ones in.
- Create a brilliant on-boarding policy and schedule for your new starters which includes the opportunity to meet colleagues, managers and subordinates face to face in the first month in the job. This is really important to ensure your new staff buy in to your brand culture and values.
In conclusion, a work from anywhere policy can be a really positive move for modern accountancy firms. But only if it’s implemented correctly with thought given to the changes that employees, clients and senior leaders will need to put in place. Involve your staff and clients from the beginning of your conversations on the topic so that changes don’t come as a surprise.
If you can get it right you’ll reap the words of a happy workforce, a wider client base and increased productivity and profitability. In fact you’ll undoubtedly need to increase the size of your team to keep up with your firm’s growth! At which point (if not well before) you’ll certainly want to schedule a call with Public Practice Recruitment Ltd!