Flexible practices gaining ground in accounting: Study

Accounting firms across the country are embracing flexible work practices more and more, according to a new study.

Leadership and management consulting firm ConvergenceCoaching's newly-released 2018 "Anytime, Anywhere Work Survey" revealed that 96 percent of polled firms are offering some form of flexible work options. Of these firms, 83 percent claim that such conditions gave their staff members a better sense of work-life balance.

Polling 175 CPA firms across the country this past summer, the fourth edition of the Anytime, Anywhere Work Survey examines the rising trend of flexible work practices in the profession and the effect it has on both staff members and clients.

"CPA firms' excellence and financial success are built on the quality of the relationships they develop ... In the end, CPA firm success is not tied to the amount of time their people spend sitting in the office," the report noted.

Sixty-one percent of flexible-work firms also believed that these remote work options helped them retain staff they would have otherwise lost.

“CPA firms are recognizing that flex work options are not about working less, but rather about reimagining when and where work can be done. Doing so brings benefits to team members, clients and firms,” stated Renee Moelders, a consultant at ConvergenceCoaching. “As both clients and talent demand more flexibility from firms, it’s crucial that CPA firms understand how to deliver exceptional service from anywhere, at virtually any time. Firms will need to continually progress their flexibility ‘profile’ to keep up with rapidly changing marketplace expectations and flex innovations.”

Other notable findings from the 2018 Summary include:

  • The percentage of firms offering optional Saturdays during busy season rose to 58 percent in 2018, up from 39 percent in 2016. Additionally, 68 percent of firms allow employees to choose where they work from on Saturdays -- a 40 percent increase from 2015.
  • The most popular flex work options offered by participating firms are part-time work (85 percent), an early/late start (83 percent) and day-to-day flex options (83 percent).
  • 34 percent of firms will close their offices on Fridays during slow periods of the year.
  • 52 percent of firms hold "core hour policies," which ConvergenceCoaching defines as "a designated time when all employees are expected to be working, either in the office or in another location." Twenty-three percent of these firms regard 7.5 hours or more to be mandatory for "core hour" time.
  • 11 percent of polled firms offer unlimited paid time off, up from 5 percent in 2016. Major firms (75+ employees) are the most likely to offer unlimited PTO (53 percent).
  • 43 percent of polled firms allow staff members to work regularly from home.
  • The percentage of firms with an employee working in a different location, not tied to a particular office, increased to 63 percent in 2018. Eighty-two percent of these firms retained the staff member when they moved to a different location. Another 41 percent of these respondents have gone on to hire a remote staff member, up from 15 percent in 2016.
  • 54 percent of firms are currently conducting "remote audits," wherein at least 50 percent of audit work is completed away from the client's office.
  • 35 percent of polled firms have a written flexible work policy in place that is updated yearly.
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For more information, head to ConvergenceCoaching's site here.

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