Accountancy industry unlikely to return to office

Accountancy industry unlikely to return to office

Remote working caused by lockdown means practices and software providers could move away from traditional workplace after restrictions are lifted

Accountancy industry unlikely to return to office

Companies across the accountancy field are currently working more efficiently, with some suggesting they may continue to working from home after the government’s restrictions are lifted.

“The staff have been listing all of the positive things that they found about working digitally. This ranges from everything – from saving on commuting expenses and having better work life balance, to having better communication,” says Richard Metcalfe, CEO of ARKK. “We have a team in London and team in Belfast and it has been so difficult to get that working effectively in two different locations. Now everyone is always on time – it is working better than we could have ever imagined.”

Martin Bown, founder and managing director at My Management Accountant, claims the pandemic is set to drastically change his firm’s workplace.

“In the longer term, and once social distancing ends, I’m not sure MMA will move back into a traditional office setting. Our client base isn’t particularly based in and around Huddersfield, and the vast majority have never visited our offices.

“The flexibility for the team of remote working, the eradication of wasted commuter journeys, no fuel or parking charges, and no rental of an office are all massively appealing.  It obviously also opens up a much wider geographical area to recruit potential new team members from.  However, there are other considerations to make before we take a final decision,” he says.

However, staff reductions could also see a reappraisal of the traditional office set up, according to Alastair Barlow, founder and partner at Flinder.

“We will see a slight shift to even more working remotely as long-term we may not need as many seats in the office. It also creates the opportunity of more time in the day saved from not travelling,” he says.

Breaking barriers

The remote workplace also offers an opportunity to break barriers between clients and customers – an asset that firms should acknowledge while many are prone to encounter a decreasing amount of sales in their products, says Metcalfe.

“We always have conversations with clients about how they think they’re going to be affected by this and actually, what this crisis has done – it’s stripped away the fancy offices and the fancy suits. You’re left with good people trying to do good things. If I’m talking to someone, a challenger bank, who’s in a kitchen wearing a hoodie, it removes some of the barriers of doing business.”

While client relationships are more than ever at stake, remote working will also have long-term effects on how firms store data.

Finn Houlihan, managing director in tax at Arlo Group, believes the lockdown has permitted the company to transition away from paper documentation.

“Where I expect there to be a lasting change is in terms of documentation – we have now made the move to being fully paperless. This is something we were working towards as the environmental benefits are clear, and we are pleased to have now completed this transition,” he says.

Businesses can use the months ahead to invest in training programmes for their employees – particularly as remote working can facilitate the process.

“I think that companies like ours have a responsibility in these times to ensure that any quiet periods are filled with staff training,” says Metcalfe. “For example, we’ve bought subscriptions to on-line training packages for the employees and we are running virtual training across the business.”

“There’s always an opportunity in these things, but nobody wants to have their face pushed or say ‘look, I’m going to take advantage of a situation,’ but as an entrepreneur, when your business is failing you have to ask yourself ‘how can we make the best of the situation?’ Of course, we’ll never do that at the expense of our values or of our customers,” explains Metcalfe.

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