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Mixed future tipped for remote working in accounting

Mixed future tipped for remote working in accounting

Remote working has taken off in Australia, but some accounting firms are finding mixed results after several years of having flexible arrangements on offer.

Professional Development Jotham Lian 26 February 2018
— 2 minute read

According to ABS figures, up to 3.5 million employed persons out of 11.6 million working Australians work from home in their main job or business.

Some of the common benefits being touted include increased ability to focus on deliverables away from office distractions, childcare and family support, and general work/life balance.

However, HLB Mann Judd group recruitment manager Tèa Lehman says that while accounting firms have been quick to embrace remote working, from a big picture perspective it has not always produced the expected benefits.

“For many, the idea of not attending what can appear endless amount of meetings is a bonus. However, it can be quite disengaging for some people, as many conversations and decisions are made and executed within this space,” said Ms Lehman.

“For those in leadership positions, remote working make it difficult, and sometimes impossible, to give staff the time they need and expect.

“The workplace environment, remote or otherwise, is about the team, and the impact on them and their working cycle, career development, colleague relationship building – the list is extensive.”

Big four firms remain outwardly supportive of flexible work arrangements, particularly the likes of PwC and EY.

For EY executive director, Matina Moffitt, flexible working arrangements has been a constant for 25 years in her 30-year career, and believes it has yet to disadvantage her or the firm. 

“There was never any issue with me choosing to flex or work around [my kids] and even with the few days a week, I have the flexibility of working from home, I can work on particular days I want, I have great flexibility to work around the family life and the firm,” said Ms Moffitt.

“I always knew that it may take a bit longer to get to where I wanted to but generally it's never been a disadvantage or a roadblock so I think one of my successes was being able to manage that work/life balance and be able to enjoy the time with my family.

“I think the firm has been really smart in that if they have somebody who has great knowledge in the industry, they haven't lost it by not being flexible enough so I think it's worked well for both of us.”

What’s next?

Mirvac general manager, Paul Edwards, says he is seeing accounting firms change their approach from remote working being the main flexible option on offer, to workplaces which also offer agile working environments. This echoes the predictions of demographer, and former KPMG partner, Bernard Salt.  

“Activity-based working means employees are no longer assigned to a desk and can locate anywhere in the office to suit the work they are undertaking,” said Mr Edwards.

“Even this approach is now being overtaken by the next trend of ‘agile working’ with companies such as Spotify, ANZ and NAB creating tribes, squads and chapters, to run their business.”

Mr Edwards says this new agility allows employees who work remotely to come into the office and fit into collaborative working spaces.

Further, the flexibility affords firms the ability to better engage with a growing gig economy, says Mr Edwards.

“The emergence of cloud technology is allowing employees to work from just about anywhere, leading to more part-time and freelance work, co-working spaces and activity-based working,” said Mr Edwards.

“For example, Deloitte has created the Open Talent network to allow freelancers to connect with the work they love, or the reverse, where companies such as Topcoder provide an opportunity for freelance work with over one million experts within their community.”

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Mixed future tipped for remote working in accounting
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