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‘Working from home? I don’t think so’: mulling the future of flexible work

‘Working from home? I don’t think so’: mulling the future of flexible work

Almost a third of Australian employees regularly work from home, but some accounting professionals are questioning the relationships costs.

Professional Development Linda Santacruz and Katarina Taurian 19 February 2018

Since 2000, the proportion of Australians working from home has risen from 20 per cent to 30 per cent, according to ABS data.

This has translated to the accounting profession, particularly big four firms, which have implemented both agile and flexible working environments.

Firms like KPMG, after closing their Western Sydney presence in the early 2000s, are again looking at the investment in “place.” Most recently, KPMG acquired western Sydney accounting and firm YCG Accountants.

“A lot of the thinking at that time was that with technology, you don’t need to be close to clients. You can do work from anywhere. The way it sort of panned out is while the work can be done anywhere, you actually need to be consistent in Western Sydney,” David Pring, KPMG managing partner for Western Sydney, said in a piece for the Institute of Public Accountants.

Since upping its investment in Greater Western Sydney, Mr Pring has noticed a demand for accounting services from companies looking to embark on growth strategies.

“What we’re finding is that with that presence, there is great demand. We can serve clients in that space much easier than just being located in the CBD. I think there’s a great opportunity for accountants in general who have a focus and ability to be in Western Sydney.

Though some would argue they can serve western clients through a virtual relationship, Mr Pring doubts the viability of this option.

“To develop the relationship piece, you need to be able to be close to the market,” he said.

‘The hottest topic in boardrooms’

Demographer, and former KPMG partner, Bernard Salt, foresees a broader shift away from city centres, but not from collaborative physical environments.

“The hottest topic in boardrooms is around how the workplace is changing — the skills required and the technology required,” Mr Salt told Accountants Daily.

“There are questions like do we need office space in the CBD? How will people communicate? Can it all be done virtually? Will people work from home? I don’t think so. I think you get the best out of people when they collaborate; the water cooler conversations,” he said.

“So, not working from home, not working in the office in the city, working near home in co-working, collaborative spaces,” he said.

This is particularly good news for accountants who are looking to start their own firm with limited overheads, Mr Salt said.

“You might live in Blacktown, but you’ll travel into Parramatta to a workspace, if you like,” Mr Salt said.

“It’s this idea of taking workplaces out of the CBD, or growing them not necessarily in the CBD, but in a series of strategic, suburban and regional centres,” he said.

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‘Working from home? I don’t think so’: mulling the future of flexible work
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