Remote work will cross the chasm in 2019

Earlier this year, the Bureau of Labor and Statistics published a look at the prevalence of remote work, highlighting that one in five professionals now work from somewhere outside the office. In part, the trend has been facilitated by companies striving to compete in today’s rapidly evolving workforce. A recent Gallup poll observed that up to 43 percent of employed Americans work at least partially remotely -- and that offering work-from-home benefits proves advantageous for companies in terms of employee retention.

While heavily regulated industries such as accounting, banking, legal services and insurance were once slower to adopt flexible workplace practices due to compliance issues and other barriers, they are now becoming commonplace in these spaces. Accounting itself has experienced perhaps the most significant shift toward increased digitization and flexibility.

According to FlexJobs, accounting roles are now one of the most popular to be offered on a remote basis. As firms have begun embracing the benefits of a cloud-based practice, enabling accountants to perform their functions from nearly any computer, tablet or mobile device, accounting practitioners can expect this paradigm shift to gain even further mainstream acceptance in 2019 due to a confluence of factors.

Millennials continue to take over the workplace

This may prompt some to envision entitled, entry-level employees with freshly printed diplomas, but it’s key to remember that many millennials are now in their late 30s. At present, the group of digital natives is the largest generation in the American labor force, making up 35 percent of it. With the generation now typically responsible for the lion’s share of work in many offices, firms of all sizes are adapting to both attract and retain millennial employees. Data confirms that an excellent way to achieve millennial talent retention is to offer competitive benefits.

The American Institute of CPAs’ 2018 Employee Benefit Report found that a whopping 80 percent of workers prefer a job with such benefits over an identical one that offered 30 percent more salary without them. The same report discovered that millennials, particularly, place the highest priority on benefits that contribute to work-life balance - such as paid time off, flexible work hours and, of course, remote work. These preferences are prompting accounting firms to offer an unprecedented increase in workplace flexibility to remain competitive in winning millennial hires. As a result of new policies enabling the shift, remote opportunities will continue to become moderately conventional among accounting practitioners of all ages.

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Our level of connectivity is skyrocketing

This is a direct result of the already extensive availability of high-speed internet access across the United States. While the digital divide unquestionably remains an issue for numerous communities - whether due to age, income, education or geographic region - the bulk of the population now possesses access to a high-speed connection in their home. What’s more, nearly 40 percent of Americans ages 18 to 49 report being online “almost constantly” every day, according to findings from the Pew Research Center.

In the coming year, existing connectivity gaps are predicted to drop in prevalence, too. These will close as 5G solutions from mobile carriers and cable service providers appear online in 2019, increasing access to connectivity. By 2024, 5G networks are expected to cover more than 40 percent of the globe, creating a more thoroughly connected society than we can fathom today. A monumental benefit of 5G networks is their capability to replace traditional connections, increase the amount of data available across devices, reduce delays and improve download speeds.

For remote employees across industries, this could redefine the experience. Removing their dependency on an adequate Wi-Fi connection, remote workers will no longer be relegated to coffee shops, co-working spaces and desks within home offices. Instead, they’ll be given a dependable connection to their colleagues and seemingly endless flexibility in terms of viable work locations.

For accountants, this will allow a heightened level of client service, providing CPAs the ability to meet their clients almost anywhere and access data seamlessly. Alleviating connectivity-induced roadblocks for accountants will be transformative -- enabling further remote opportunities in the field and mitigating stressors caused by digital limitations when on the go.

Whether driven by increased connectivity, the growing pressure of millennial influence or cloud-enabled remote access, it’s clear that remote work in accounting is a burgeoning trend and one unlikely to be suppressed in the near future.

Does your firm offer remote work or other flexible workplace benefits? Why or why not?

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