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Why accountancy firms should consider co-working spaces post-Covid

The latest monthly column from SF Recruitment

The pandemic has changed the way we view our office space. With some of the leading figures in accountancy and finance announcing policy updates to accommodate working flexibly, the wider impact of our office spaces is starting to come to light. One option for businesses could be to utilise co-working facilities, which are becoming an increasingly viable option for the industry. Here are five reasons why accountancy firms should consider a move to co-working facilities post-pandemic.

1. Use the space you need

As flexible working policies become an established part of the norm, it is likely that most offices will not be as crowded as they were pre-pandemic, with many employees opting to work from home. While some may look at sharing existing office space with other local businesses or downsizing, for companies that are considering the prospect of a completely flexible working culture, having permanent offices may no longer be required.

Co-working facilities allow organisations to only use the space which is needed. Whether it is for an important meeting, a team-building day or general catch-up, organisations can take control of the space that they need, when they need it. This will not only save money for the firm, but enables a truly flexible working culture by offering the choice of where to work for staff.

2. Break recruitment location boundaries

Moving towards a flexible future will enable the recruitment net to be widened, meaning that firms can scoop the top finance graduates and professionals regardless of location. With many chartered accountants now looking to work partially or entirely remotely, expanding the recruitment radius will be more important than ever. Introducing co-working facilities can enable organisations to set up mini offices as focal points across the country, as and when they are needed. However, businesses don’t have to make a permanent move to co-working facilities if they don’t want to. Retaining a diminished primary base alongside smaller ad-hoc set ups can be an effective way of drawing in top talent from all across the country.

3. Work towards employee preferences

One of the crucial learnings from the pandemic for finance leaders has been understanding the power of employee engagement. An engaged workplace offers multiple benefits, and ensuring that employees have their say on the future of office life will help ensure that the right policies and culture are in place. Co-working spaces serve as an excellent complement to hybrid working, allowing employees greater freedom when planning their working week, leading to increased productivity and increased talent retention for the firm. When operating in a co-working facility, chartered accountants also have the opportunity to network with professionals from other industries that they would never cross paths with otherwise. This can be an exciting way of driving development in staff, though there’s always the option of returning to the office if they feel the need to work in a predominantly finance-based sphere.

4. Retaining face-to-face contact

If organisations choose to adopt flexible working, then it is vital that access to a face-to-face environment is maintained. Whether through reduced-capacity offices or co-working facilities, it is crucial that colleagues have the option to work with each other when required. Primarily, this can help to assuage feelings of loneliness that may develop when working from home, while maintaining the vital passage of knowledge between older and younger employees – a vital consideration for more junior accountants that are looking to advance.

Moreover, when joining a new place of work – whether young or old – fresh recruits often look to make contact with their new colleagues as often as possible, so as to build working relationships and truly bed themselves into company culture. However, this can be a difficult task without the option of meeting in person, so it is critical that the choice is made available.

5. Maintaining leadership visibility

Without a visible leader, it can be hard for finance professionals to understand their place within the firm as a whole, which also presents another key barrier to development. As such, regardless of which office policy to adopt, it is crucial that team leaders remain visible to wider colleagues. Whether this is through in-person office visits, or regular team meetings, being visible will support mentoring initiatives and ensure one-to-ones are as effective as possible. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean personal contact, as sometimes just maintaining an open phone line is enough. The main takeaway here is that attitudes are different for each individual employee, so retaining options is a must.

Where does your future lie?

Flexible working policies are here to stay. Companies must now take the time to identify what is important for the future, and start to put plans together. The solution for many firms could be the move to co-working, shared common-area facilities to save cost and maintain a sense of home. Adopting hot-desking in a permanent office could also be the best solution, introducing areas for finance professionals to collaborate among themselves, and even with those from other disciplines. What is clear is that the set-up businesses once had – bulky desks and decades’-old chairs – may no longer be fit for purpose.

For many, the pandemic thrust working from home onto organisations out of necessity rather than choice. However, it has undoubtably allowed employers to realise the benefits of unlocking a truly flexible workplace. As we look towards a post-lockdown workplace, and are no longer restricted solely to remote working, finance business leaders have big decisions to make – but they should be wary of making them internally. Consult your staff and seek their opinions. This way, leaders will be able to understand both the qualities and shortcomings of remote working, and can choose to apply it as a helpful tool rather than a restriction.

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