Crowe Horwath recently instituted two new policies giving its employees the option to dress more casually and work remotely.

The firm is one of the first top 10 public accounting firms to institute permanent, firm-wide policies regarding casual dress (see Crowe Horwath implements new flexible dress and mobile-work policies). Other firms, of course, have been moving toward allowing greater work/life balance and flexibility. Baker Tilly Virchow Krause, for example, recently began a pilot program allowing employees to dress how they like based on where they’re working (see Baker Tilly launches pilot ‘Dress for Your Day’ program).

Crowe Horwath CEO Jim Powers sees a difference, though, in his firm’s new “what to wear” and “where to work” policies. He noted that in the past people could request a special telecommuting arrangement at Crowe, whereby they could telecommute and work remotely, but generally at most firms those are special arrangements. At Crowe these are now standard, permanent policies, and not pilot programs.

“‘What to wear’ really indicates that the jeans day on Friday sort of policy that we had before really extends out to every day,” he told Accounting Today. “When people are not going to be meeting with clients, if they’re not going to be in a situation where some other form of dress is really expected and required, then they are given the freedom or the flexibility to dress much more casually every day of the week, if that’s what their schedule dictates.”

However, that doesn’t mean anything goes. “We put out a humorous video that had some of our senior leaders demonstrating what we called ‘crimes of fashion,’” said Powers. “We had people with torn jeans, people with sandals on, people wearing shorts, people wearing sleeveless shirts. Those things are probably not appropriate in any setting, at least where you’re trying to work effectively. We have given people some pretty humorous, but on the other hand pretty instructive, examples of what not to wear so they don’t commit crimes of fashion. We tried to do it in a humorous way.”

The other component of Crowe’s policy allows more flexibility in where to work.

“‘Where to work’ dictates that unless you need to be at a client office or some other place that is really required to do the work, you have the flexibility to make a good decision on where you can operate the most effectively for what you’re doing,” said Powers. “That might in some cases be in an office. It could be that you would work from home. It could be that you would work from someplace else. Maybe it’s your son’s basketball game or something like that. Whatever it is, we have the tools so people can be very effective in their jobs anywhere. We trust them to make good decisions on where they can operate the most productively and effectively, as long as they’re taking care of their client service needs and they’re effective with the teams they’re working with on servicing those clients. After that we trust them to make the decisions on where they can do that the best and not dictate to them they must come into the office and spend an hour and a half on the train or whatever they have to do to get into the office, just so they can do the work that they could have done from someplace else just as effectively.”

Similarly, Crowe has produced a video showing counterexamples of where not to work, such as the local tavern.

“We’ve had several people give examples of probably not the best way to work remotely,” said Powers. “One example was a guy doing it from a bar where he’s drinking, and he’s yelling about the game on TV and people are yelling in the background. That’s probably not the way you’re going to work very effectively at a remote location. We poked fun at some things, but the message is pretty clear: this is not going to work so use good judgment.”