I recently visited a large client who is renting a nice office space downtown. It was a busy weekday morning, but the building was deserted. When I asked if I was forgetting some kind of vacation, she laughed and said, “Since COVID, there’s literally no one here.” What struck me about her comment was that she didn’t seem worried. She knew her staff were very productive working from home. Morale was high and they were doing their job on time. Plus, the company still had several years left on its lease, and the cost was already in the budget. His company also had well-established telecommuting best practices and updated metrics for measuring a remote workforce. Unfortunately, this company is the exception, not the rule in our profession.
Like all professional services firms, accounting firms need to start thinking about what kind of organization they want to be and what kind of culture they want to have if nobody comes into the office. If your firm is important to recruiting, training and advancing young members of the profession, you should maintain a physical presence for training and mentoring purposes. In other words, you need “butts in the seats”. But, if your growth strategy is based on hiring top talent and allowing them to do their jobs where they prefer, that’s a very different office setup.
Since COVID surfaced more than two years ago, everyone who has stopped coming to the office has developed entrenched work-from-home habits. Despite the free parking, on-site gym, and gourmet kitchen you built for them, they have no plans to go back to long commutes, less family time, and a conventional office setup. . You can have the best office furniture money can buy, but you can’t compete with an employee’s favorite chair at home or having their own kitchen just down the hall from their office. Do you want to disrupt your team’s momentum, just to get more butts in the seats or to justify an expensive lease?
The way you do business keeps changing, and so do the needs of your office. I foresee a second blow to commercial real estate when all medium and long term leases expire. But for now, innovative companies are learning to rebuild their organizations based on how things are likely to be in the future – not how they would like things to be (or have been). ).
Can’t teleworkers be well managed?
Veteran CPAs tell me they don’t feel like they can’t monitor remote workers as effectively as they can when they’re in the office. The problem is not working in the office or working from home. It’s about developing the right measurables to measure, motivate, and promote your remote team. You have to tackle the central problem: your management style.
If you’ve been a CPA for 20 or 30 years, I’m sure you feel like you’ve paid your dues by burning midnight oil in the office, with grumpy bosses, long commutes, and less time spent in family. Suddenly, you see younger members of the team expecting to progress without much time in the office. It’s easy to assume that they have the right and/or don’t want to work as hard as you when rising through the ranks. This is no longer the case. They may work as hard as you did at the start of your career, maybe harder. Perhaps time spent in the office isn’t the best metric for measuring productivity, advancement potential, and company commitment. Maybe you feel like you can’t communicate as effectively with your team when they’re not physically present in the same office. Not true. Of course, you can communicate remotely. It’s just not your preferred way to interact with (and manage) your team. You can try imposing more time at the office. Some employees will be ready to come back to the office. But others, including some of the most talented members of your team, will retire and move on to other businesses.
Working from home is not a fad
Remember, the work-from-home trend isn’t going away anytime soon. Where your employees do their work becomes less important than How? ‘Or’ What they do your job and results they can deliver. The same should apply to where and how you deal with people.
Remember my client with the state-of-the-art downtown office? There was a lot going on; it just wasn’t happening within the walls of the main office. As an accounting firm, you need to decide what kind of work you need to do and whether or not clients need to meet with you in person to feel they are getting the full benefit of your expertise. young graduates, you may find it difficult to complete your training completely remotely from all over the country. Let’s assume that’s the case, okay. Remember that your pool of candidates will shrink quickly. But if your company has mostly seasoned professionals who primarily do virtual CFO work, it doesn’t matter where they are. They don’t need a lot of guidance from you and certainly don’t need close supervision. On the plus side, they also don’t need a private office nook (and an on-site administrative assistant). These cost savings ultimately trickle down to your bottom line.
Be careful not to fall back into the following mindset: “This is how we’ve always done it.” An incredible amount has changed in our profession in an incredibly short time. The rules are constantly changing and you must also be prepared to adapt. For more on adapting to change, check out my article Become an anti-fragile CPA.
What are your thoughts on office space and managing a remote workforce? I would love to hear from you.