Is work from home (WFH) the new normal in finance?

One of the unexpected results of the lockdown has been a sort of mental gear shift about the validity of working from home (WFH) as accepted practice. Even the most resistant of managers had to embrace the principles of WFH during the worst of the pandemic. There was no choice, so there it was, live with it or don’t do business was the message. Of course, we all chose to live with it and adapt. Adaptation, as Darwin said, is the key to evolution, and in this instance, the imposition of lockdown has forced many businesses to evolve. This is no more apparent than in the accountancy sector where everyone from part-time bookkeepers to high-level Finance Directors and Managers moved from their desks to the kitchen table. Now, as we leave lockdown and start to head back to something resembling normal life, many companies are assessing the impact of WFH and often through a very favourable lens.

On paper, WFH has a lot going for it. From the employee point of view, it offers a certain freedom and flexibility. Things as simple as the prospect of saying farewell to the rush hour grind or ditching the limp, desk-bound sandwich at lunchtime, can add up to a much better lifestyle. It can even be a little financially advantageous as everyone spends less on transport and working day treats. Working becomes project-based with clearer target focused KPIs, which is often cited as something that promotes job satisfaction. This is born out of the necessity to measure employee workloads and productivity, of course, but the result is often a more goal-orientated workforce.

Adding WFH options to an employment offer certainly helps attract more potential candidates. Areas that would previously have been a likely complication for a candidate are suddenly eased. Childcare, caring for elderly relatives, some health issues and even time to follow other pursuits and hobbies are all suddenly no longer a barrier to applying for a job. The bigger the pool of candidates, of course, the more choice the employer has. In the coming months, when things may well start to get a little tough in the economy, having the best people could be a distinct advantage.

Financial advantages of WFH

For the business owner, the financial advantages are clear. Many businesses are telling us they are now considering downsizing the office space they occupy. Some smaller businesses are even losing a permanent office entirely and going to a ‘hot office’ system within business centres and office clusters.

As a result of the changes to working practices during the Covid-19 crisis, it is reasonable to expect a few of the old attitudes to the office to change. The tradition of the 9 to 5 is breaking down. One of the main reasons for maintaining office space is the monitoring of teams and the age-old assumption that being at work equated to productivity. This has proved not to be the case, though. A quick search on Google will produce multiple results about how productivity has increased with WFH. In some cases, this is thought to be as much as 40+ %. That alone is a huge financial incentive for an employer.

It would be wrong to say that WFH does not come without its downside as well. New practices mean new systems of team management and changes in approach from all the workforce. This can be difficult in itself, but often it is particularly challenging for managers who have taken a more traditional supervisory ‘top-down’ approach in the past. The workforce will still need contact from management teams, and you simply cannot replace the corridor conversations or the importance of bouncing ideas with a colleague. All of these are a matter of new practices, though, and none of them are insurmountable challenges.

As we settle into a new era of working, it seems that most companies are starting to adopt at least some form of WFH provision. There are going to be the expected obstacles and unknown hurdles as things develop, but it may well be that the fallout of the pandemic in the working world of accountancy and finance is leaner, more productive and highly flexible teams.

We think these changes are exciting and have a lot of potential for our clients. Call us if you need to discuss the changes you will need to make to job specifications and listing to encompass the new normal.

Get in touch with AFR Consulting today on 01254 311133

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