Employee and candidate demands for a flexible schedule and/or remote working environment are pushing accounting firms outside of their comfort zone as they try to remain competitive. Firms that have not in the past considered allowing employees to work in a remote environment, citing security and control reasons, are now finding themselves with a limited local candidate pool and the threat of an employee exodus in search of a more flexible work environment.
It seems that no industry is immune from a lack of labor, even in the professional classifications such as accountants. “Help Wanted” signs are the “new normal” and a literal sign of the times. To maintain staffing levels to support client needs, firms are struggling to source a strong candidate pool from local candidates and are now looking outside their local areas and even in other states to find qualified candidates.
In addition, the demand for a competitive compensation package is stronger than ever as the candidate pool has the upper hand. Employees can work for firms located in any state while living in an area with a lower cost of living and in turn enjoy a better quality of life.
Of course, a remote workforce can bring greater risk to the firm. As firms consider the various factors to support a remote workforce, there are a few items to keep in mind.
- Consider conducting background checks on candidates who rise to the top of the list and are offered a position. Contact the candidate’s references and ask about work habits, strengths and weaknesses. Many past employers will shy away from providing such detail, but it doesn’t hurt to ask.
- Review and update policies that impact a remote work group such as cyber safety, use of firm resources, and care of client files.
- Create a checklist for an employee’s home office to ensure cyber safety and address issues such as a firewall, secured network, remote swipe, and firm-provided phone.
Once remote employees are onboard, firms must ensure that processes are keeping employees engaged, heard, and feeling valued. Create opportunities for engagement and have a solid Remote Workers Policy that addresses expectations of a remote worker. Such a policy may address:
- Employees should be available and engaged during regular business hours.
- While the employee’s remote office need not be a dedicated room or office space necessarily, the space should be free from distractions, pets, and young children, and allow for a secure space where firm and client information cannot be accessed by others, and phone calls are private.
- Express expectations related to meetings on Zoom, Teams and other virtual meeting platforms. Address issues such as requiring the employee to have their camera on or allowing them to keep the camera off, dress code while on virtual meetings, and backgrounds.
The accounting firm of the future is here. With the advice of a risk management advisor, firms can gain an understanding of potential risk and create best practices to support the new workplace of today.
If your firm has an Employment Practices Liability insurance policy with CAMICO, feel free to contact CAMICO at 1.800.652.1772 or send an email to email@example.com with your employment-related questions.