4 Reasons progressive accounting firms should embrace remote work

Almost two-thirds of U.S. workers work remotely at least some of the time; half work remotely at least once per week. And, it’s not a passing fad — 40% of workers in the same poll said they plan to do it more frequently in the future.  It’s no secret that the business world at large is becoming more tolerant of alternative work arrangements. But it may surprise you to learn that more traditional industries like accounting are increasingly testing remote workers — and liking it.

In 2018, 43% of CPA firms surveyed had employees working from home and 41% had hired employees who did not work locally at all — a 15% jump from 2016.

What benefits are causing progressive accounting firms to consider and adopt remote work policies? Workforce studies continue to confirm direct improvements in productivity, recruiting, diversity, and another of hard-to-improve metrics accounting firms want to prioritize.

Benefit No. 1: Increased productivity

The most universally agreed upon benefit of remote work is increased productivity among staff members. According to an International Work Group (IWG) 2019 Workplace Study, 85% of respondents saw increased productivity in their business as a result of greater flexibility for employees.

The Harvard Business Review also released a study that correlated working from home to higher productivity compared to working in an office. As for whether or not remote work could increase productivity in your firm, consider how often your employees need to collaborate to maintain high levels of teamwork and coordination.

It’s possible the increased stress of coordination could offset the gains of higher productivity, making remote work not a good fit for your company. But that may be where using a browser-based practice management solution like OfficeTools Cloud, or hosting your applications on a secure private cloud, can help.  

Benefit #2: Retention of top talent

The second most documented benefit of remote work is reduced turnover and improved retention rates for in-demand talent, with employers who offer remote-friendly opportunities seeing as much as 25% less turnover than those who don’t.

There are also tangential benefits to employee engagement. The 2019 State of Remote Work FOR USA by Owl Labs highlights that workers who work remotely often feel like they are more trusted and less likely to change jobs than co-workers who are not able to work remotely.

Why? Employees prefer the option to work remotely. In fact, 80% of IWG Workplace Survey respondents indicated that when faced with two similar employment offers, they would turn down the one that didn’t offer flexible working. For some employees, it goes further than that, as 25% of employees are willing to take a 10% pay cut if it means remote work.

Benefit #3: Larger candidate pools

Giving remote capabilities to roles you’re hiring for expands your candidate hiring pool by location, age, and experience.

Opening your candidate pool to non-local candidates means you can hire from a larger talent net, expanding your skills and services based on talent, not geographic location. This particularly benefits firms located outside of traditionally popular urban locations like New York and San Francisco.

Research from the Harvard Business Review “Work-from-anywhere: The Productivity Effects of Geographic Flexibility” white paper also finds that work from home options could motivate experienced workers who are close to retirement to remain in the workforce and be productive. For accounting firms concerned about the “Brain Drain” phenomenon, when decades of niche experience will be lost to waves of retirement, this could be a way to keep as many highly experienced employees on your staff as long as possible.

Benefit #4: Lower operational costs

Six in 10 employers identified cost savings as a main benefit to having a telecommuting program. Fully remote organizations can save hundreds of thousands of dollars every year in costs like rent, utilities, and insurance.

Even firms who add just one or two remote workdays to the work week can see savings in commuting and parking benefits, employee lunches and snacks which can add up to $11,000 per employee per year, or more. Remote work programs can also manage your insurance liability, reducing your CAPEX/OPEX, and consolidating your portfolio to save money.

Considering remote work for your firm

Does every role at every firm lend itself to remote work? No. But there is enough hard data supporting the benefits of remote work that it’s worth investigating which roles within your firm could benefit from testing out alternative work arrangements. You may even find you occasionally get more done from your home office!