Advice & Best Practice

What to expect from remote working within accountancy

In the wake of unprecedented technological advancements and the global shift towards flexible work arrangements, the traditional landscape of accountancy has also undergone a significant transformation

With the advent of remote work, the once office-bound profession of accounting is now embracing flexibility and adaptability like never before. The prospect of remote work opens up a realm of possibilities, offering increased autonomy, improved work-life balance, and enhanced productivity. 

While implementing a remote working pattern within the biggest firms has proven contentious, nearly three-quarters of accounting firms offer flexible work options as of 2021/22, according to Spotlighting Reporting’s Global Advisory Trends Report – and that flexibility around remote working has persisted beyond the pandemic years. 

During the first half of 2023, some 41% of finance and accounting professionals sought to look for a new job within the industry, and out of that percentage 63% looked for hybrid roles. The remaining 47% were interested in a fully remote position. 

The advantages

The traditional image of accountants confined to their desks, surrounded by stacks of paperwork, is rapidly becoming a relic of the past. What’s more, a remote working pattern has revealed a myriad of benefits for professionals: 

Enhanced productivity: Remote working has allowed accountants to tailor their work environment to suit their preferences, resulting in increased focus and productivity.

Improved work-life balance: By swapping lengthy commutes with flexible working hours, remote work has enabled accountants to achieve a better balance between their personal and professional lives.

Cost savings: Unsurprisingly, accounting firms have also experienced reduced overhead costs, as they have had to lease less physical office spaces for their teams. 

Access to global talent: Remote work transcends geographical boundaries, allowing accounting firms to tap into a global talent pool and recruit the best talent irrespective of location.

Resilience and business continuity: Remote work enhances the resilience of accounting firms by ensuring continuity of operations during unforeseen disruptions such as natural disasters or pandemics. The industry already began to slowly move towards a hybrid working pattern even before the outbreak of Covid-19, but its arrival had only sped up the process.

Remote working checklist 

Like with anything, planning and execution are key. Here are some of the things to consider before committing to a hybrid work pattern:   

Infrastructure and technology: Technological solutions within an office setting have been proven to also facilitate your team’s ability to work remotely, so make sure your team has access to cloud-based accounting software and virtual collaboration tools. Be sure to also provide access to secure data sharing platforms both for the safety of your clients and professionals. 

Communication and collaboration: It can be difficult to gauge how your team is performing while working remotely, so for the sake of fostering a culture of communication and collaboration, be sure to take advantage of the virtual communication tools. While it’s important to strike a balance, a few regularly scheduled team meetings can help to keep everyone updated on projects.  

Cybersecurity and data protection: Implement stringent cybersecurity measures to safeguard sensitive financial data and ensure compliance with data protection regulations. Utilise secure VPNs, multi-factor authentication, and encryption protocols to protect confidential information.

Performance management: Establish clear performance metrics and expectations for remote work, monitor employee productivity, and provide ongoing feedback and support to ensure accountability and performance optimisation.

Training and development: Provide comprehensive training and support to employees to familiarise them with remote work tools and technologies, enhance their digital skills, and promote professional development in a remote working environment.

Departments most suited to remote work

While remote work holds immense potential for the entire spectrum of accountancy, certain departments are particularly well-suited to this modern working model:

Tax preparation and compliance: With the digitisation of tax processes and the widespread adoption of cloud-based tax software, tax preparation and compliance can easily be conducted remotely. Accountants can collaborate with clients virtually, review documents securely, and file taxes electronically, all from the comfort of wherever they find themselves.

Bookkeeping and payroll: Bookkeeping and payroll tasks primarily involve data entry, reconciliation, and payroll processing, all of which can be seamlessly performed remotely using cloud-based accounting software. Remote access to financial data enables accountants to maintain accurate records and process payroll efficiently, irrespective of their physical location.

Financial reporting and analysis: Remote work offers significant advantages for financial reporting and analysis, allowing accountants to access real-time financial data, conduct in-depth analysis, and generate insightful reports remotely. Virtual collaboration tools facilitate communication with clients and stakeholders, enabling accountants to provide timely financial insights and strategic recommendations.

Consulting and advisory services: Remote work is particularly well-suited to consulting and advisory services, as it enables accountants to offer personalised guidance and expertise to clients regardless of their location. Virtual meetings, video conferencing, and screen sharing facilitate interactive discussions, enabling accountants to deliver value-added services and strategic advice remotely.

Remote working is becoming more and more valuable to professionals in financial services. In fact, according to the Thomson Reuters Institute’s 2023 State of the Tax Professionals Report, various firms revealed that offering flexible arrangements such as hybrid hours were their top tip for reeling in the best professionals. 

This comes as 89% of finance and accounting managers reportedly faced challenges in finding skilled talent in today’s recruitment environment. 

In addition, some 69% of financial services firms also revealed that they expect to have 60% of their workforce working from home at least once a week going forward. 

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