2022 Rosenberg Associates Remote Work Survey
Remote work has had undeniable effects on the CPA industry in recent years, which have been more incredibly challenging for accounting firms. From grappling with how to handle the onboarding, training, and mentoring of staff, to trying to maintain pre-pandemic client relationships and business development levels, firms have been faced with challenges not seen in our profession’s history.
To gain further insight into how firms of various sizes across North America have been dealing with these challenges, Rosenberg Associates conducted a survey of over 100 firms to see how remote work has impacted their businesses. To give you some basic background on the demographics of the respondents, we grouped the firms by revenue size:
Of the questions we asked, all of them mostly centered around these main topics:
- Remote/hybrid work
- Client relationships and business development
Remote and Hybrid Work Challenges
A couple of the questions we asked respondents were a) were they offering a remote/hybrid work option and b) if so, was this brought on by the pandemic, or was this something they have always offered? Not surprisingly, 99% of firms said they were currently offering a remote and/or hybrid work option to their employees. Of that 99%, two-thirds said these options were brought on by the pandemic whereas the remaining third said they had always offered them.
Perhaps controversial to some, over half the firms offering a remote/hybrid option let their employees decide when they want to work remotely versus in-office. Adding to that, over 80% of firms said they do not require their employees to be in the office on certain days. So how, you might ask, are firms giving staff the ability to decide where they work and maintaining high morale, but not letting their culture diminish? Here’s what firms have found success doing to mitigate these challenges:
- Planning regular virtual events, get-togethers, or happy hours.
- Providing employees with lunches or food stipends.
- Raising compensation and giving ad-hoc bonuses as a thank you.
- Providing additional flexibility around not just where but when employees can get their work done.
Productivity Hasn’t Dipped
In conversations with firm leadership over the past two years many of them have expressed concerns over the productivity of their staff working remotely. They fear that if given the opportunity to work remotely, staff will be less productive. While this may be true for some outlier cases, it is simply not the case for most. Staff are continuing to get their work done and at times more efficiently without the in-office distractions. Here is how our respondents answered our survey question about how productivity levels have changed for them since offering a remote/hybrid option:
Further, firms are managing productivity differently in a remote environment. Some of the ways they are doing so include having more frequent check-ins with staff, monitoring billable hours more closely, conducting more firm meetings, and ensuring remote workers have the proper technology setup at home.
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Client Relationships Haven’t Suffered
Maintaining great relationships with your clients is an important part of any business, especially in the professional services industry where you are working with clients on sensitive and important matters that affect them directly. While many may assume that the pandemic would have created a strain on these relationships, our survey found that client relationships have not suffered because of the shift to remote work over the past couple of years for 75% of firms. This came as a surprise given that client relationships have traditionally been created and fostered in person.
Business Development is More Difficult
Out of the 132 firms surveyed, 69% or 91 firms have found business development more difficult in a remote environment. Many firms said that due to a shortage in labor, they have curtailed their business development because they don’t have the personnel to do the work. Quite a few firms said that, despite the remote environment, they are encouraging face-to-face meetings with clients, prospects, and referral sources. In addition to encouraging face-to-face meetings, firms are also having more video calls, ramping up attendance at client events, and using social media outlets as ways to address this challenge.
If there is one takeaway the past two years have taught us it is that remote work is here to stay. The CPA firm industry along with many businesses has entered a phase where staff are demanding more flexibility which inherently brings on its fair share of challenges. What’s conclusive from our survey is that firms are finding ways to overcome these challenges and meeting the flexibility requests of their employees while maintaining productivity and client relationships.
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