This issue of Generational Viewpoints features two individuals from Withumsmith+Brown (www.withum.com), a multi-state firm with approximately 400 employees. Generation Yer Jack Mans, born in 1986, and Baby Boomer partner Jim Bourke, CPA, CITP, CFF, born in 1964, shared their responses to the following question: What are your thoughts about work-from-home options for CPA professionals and the benefits and/or potential issues?
BOURKE'S BOOMER VIEWPOINT
In 1987, when I started my career as a staff-level accountant with WithumSmith+Brown, "work-from-home" was not even a dream. The technologies and tools to bring it to fruition were still on the drawing board. If something needed to be done, it would be done in the office, regardless of the time of day or day of the week. Times have definitely changed for the better!
I believe that the work-from-home options that exist today have had, and will continue to have, a significant impact upon our profession. If managed correctly, we all have everything to gain from this concept.
At WS+B, we believe in putting the "right" technologies into the hands of our team members. They allow each employee to access applications and client data anywhere/anytime, and form the foundation upon which work-from-home options can be built. I understand the desire for individuals of all ages to work from home and am a huge believer that if my employees are happy and enjoy their work environment, our clients will be happy as well.
Between serving our clients and serving the profession, I have a pretty hectic schedule. Around that schedule I have found time over the last 10 years to actively attend my children's baseball and soccer activities. If it were not for my firm embracing the work-from-anywhere philosophy, there is no way that I could be as active in my children's lives, served as president of the New Jersey Society of CPAs, or been as active in serving Council, committees, task forces, workgroups, and (soon) the board of the American Institute of CPAs.
The benefits of allowing staff to work from home are obvious: Employees experience a better quality of life and, in my opinion, clients actually end up with a better service. We stand a better chance of retaining our people, too, which also leads to better, more experienced client service professionals available to our valued clients.
Working from home does create challenges for the employee. Home historically has been the place for family, fun and free time. Working from home adds another component, so the individual needs to be disciplined and able to balance family, fun, free time and work.
Working from home is not for everyone, but if managed the right way by the employee and embraced by the employer, it has the potential of creating a better working environment and happy clients!
MANS' GEN Y VIEWPOINT
Imagine a completely paperless office environment where employees are given company cell phones, laptops, portable second monitors, and access to client documents and files through Web-based alternatives or virtual private networks. The company invests heavily in technology and has capabilities to hold meetings through video conferencing. If you have an Internet connection, you're open for business.
If you have the technological capabilities, resources and overall ability to give employees the option to work from home, why wouldn't you? In today's world, people are constantly interconnected, and the technology exists to enable anyone to work from home. It's actually difficult to disconnect at times.
I think the option of working from home aids in keeping employees happy and serves as a perk, giving them an extra incentive to work hard while reducing turnover in the profession. It saves employees fuel costs, lunch expenses, wear and tear on vehicles, and, in some cases, childcare expenses. There are times during the year when CPA professionals spend limited time with family. Working from home would give them more opportunities to spend time they may not otherwise be able to enjoy with their family, like lunch or dinner.
While I believe in the work-from-home option, there may be instances where it can't be implemented on a regular basis or full-time for logistical reasons. In those cases, perhaps it could be offered on a once-a-week basis, even if only during the summer months. Working from home on Fridays between Memorial Day and Labor Day would personally save me the "misery" of traffic I encounter traveling to and from the office, and would not impact my productivity.
While some firms may worry about what their clients would think about their service provider working outside of the office, the reality is that the majority of client interaction occurs through e-mail or by phone. There are occasions where you need to meet with clients in person, but this should not be a barrier to allowing an employee to work from home.
The bottom line of the "work-from-home debate" really rests on one simple conclusion: If an employee is performing their job in an efficient and timely manner while satisfying the clients' requests, it really shouldn't make a difference where the actual work takes place.
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