Working From Home (WFH)

Search online for Work From Home and you most likely find a page or more of links to… “15 best working from home jobs”; 714 best work from home jobs (Google Australia/LinkedIN)” Data entry home jobs”; Urgent work from home jobs”; 9717 jobs working from home (Google/UK); 32,000 jobs working from home (Google UK/LinkedIN).

What is happening in the marketplace?

Goldman Sachs CEO David Solomon has rejected remote working as a “new normal” and labelled it an “aberration” instead. His eagerness for workers to return to the office is at odds with many other firms, who have suggested that working from home could become permanent.

Mr Solomon suggested that it does not suit the work culture at Goldman Sachs. “I do think for a business like ours, which is an innovative, collaborative apprenticeship culture, this is not ideal for us. And it’s not a new normal. It’s an aberration that we’re going to correct as soon as possible,” he told a recent conference. 

Emerging hybrid plans 

In a recent survey of close to a thousand company directors conducted last month, nearly three quarters (74%) said they would be keeping increased home-working after coronavirus. Furthermore, more than half of those polled said their organisation intended to reduce their long-term use of workplaces. More than one in five reported their usage would be significantly lower.

Roger Barker, Director of Policy at the UK Institute of Director said: “Remote working has been one of the most tangible impacts of coronavirus on the economy. For many, it could be here to stay. Working from doesn’t work for everyone, and directors must be alive to the downsides. Managing teams remotely can prove far from straightforward, and directors must make sure they are going out of their way to support employees’ mental wellbeing”.

WFH in the accountancy business

Accountants and business owners see this is the burning issue of the day and in many countries key decisions regarding the ongoing entitlement to WFH have yet to be determined. The reason? Every country has its own rules in place. Some have staff fully back to work, others remain in lockdown.

The reality firms face is that staff now have an upper hand – note not the upper hand. What is evident is that if firms do not accommodate staff requests to incorporate an entitlement to WFH they may find staff exercise their right to find alternative employment.

Accounting firm owner survey

I conducted a survey in March – here are a sample of the responses from MPs and others: 

Brian Falony, National Account Manager, BizActions, and Chantelle Engle, Partner at Strothman and Company CPA both advised that “Many of our staff are now back in the office”

Tom Neff, Managing Partner of RINA, Oakland said, 25% back full time, 25% staying at home, the rest will be a mix maybe 2-3 days per week in office.

Carolyn Melin, Business Manager at EAC, reported “We will let those working remotely continue. Half of our firm is back in the office.”

Donald McIntosh, CEO of Rea & Associates, Managing Partner New Philadelphia, cautioned that “The big challenge with having most people working from home long term is simply learning how to coach and train them differently. But, we’re definitely looking at hoteling effectively.

Fran Brown of Capin Crouse interestingly said “I hope no one ever returns to an office. We do not want them in the office.” Not sure if Fran was being serious!

Alan Long, CPA, CITP, CGMA, is the managing member of Baldwin, CPAs, “We are about 70% in the office, but this is still all in progress and we are still working on what our policies are going to be for those that may want to continue to work from home.”

Jane Johnson, Alabama said “We will stay hybrid – some in the office, some will stay at home.

Your policy

Your business’ work from home policy is likely to outline which employees are eligible to work remotely (for example those that can competently undertake the work on their own with minimal supervision and jobs that can be done safely by one person; or that by their nature can be done from home), what responsibilities they will have and your expectations of their performance.

Key Questions: Laura Garnett in a Forbes article on 6 May posed these questions that you might consider asking your team if you’re debating what the next step forward will be:

  1. Do you want to come back to the office? 
  2. Do you want to be in the office for any portion of your time? If so, how many hours or days per week? 
  3. What has or has not been working well for you as a remote worker, and how could we better support your remote experience?
  4. What kind of development or career support do you need in order to perform your best in the next year?
  5. Are you suffering from Zoom fatigue? If so, would one day a week without meetings be helpful?
  6. Do you feel safe coming back to the office? If not, what would make you feel safe having in-person gatherings at work?
  7. What has been your biggest challenge with work this past year as a result of the pandemic? What about your home life?
  8. How would you rate your own performance in the past year? And, what would you say was your biggest performance barrier? 
  9. Do you have any other recommendations about how we can support you over the coming year?

To which I would add: Collaboration and mentoring/training and innovation – how do you grow staff if they are not in the office?

The conclusion thus far

For many this is still a work in progress. If the government still requires your staff to be home based staff (and in the UK this is not compulsory but [currently] strongly recommended).