Jennifer Wilson

Firms Continue To Migrate AWAY From Time and Place.

In early June, we launched our 2015 Anytime, Anywhere Work Survey to collect information about the adoption of flexible work initiatives within public accounting firms. We asked firms to submit only one response per firm and were amazed to see a 57% increase in participation this year, with 155 distinct firms responding. We’ll follow a similar publishing pattern for our survey results as we did to last year, reporting the highlights of the survey in this initial blog. In future blogs, we’ll dive deeper into some of the specific questions asked and the depth of advice and insights shared by our respondents.

Overall, firms continue to move away from the traditional time (when we work) and place (where we work) paradigm. That said, it seems flexibility of place is the place firms are making the most progress and we were a little disappointed to see the slow progress in “anytime” work this past year.

We sent this survey to Managing Partners, HR professionals and Firm Administrators. 70% of our respondents were either Firm Administrators or Human Resource professionals. 18% were Managing Partners or CEOs and the balance included partners, managers and one enthusiastic staff person.

Participant firm size demographics have shifted slightly with 64% of the respondents working in a large (21 – 74 CPAs) or major firm (75+ CPAs). 23% work in medium firms, and 19% work in small firms. We had one Big 4 respondent in this year’s survey. This year’s results saw a drop in responses from medium firms and more responses from small firms (18%, up from 5% in 2014.)

A whopping 97% of the firms surveyed offer flexible work arrangements like late start, part-time, 4-day work weeks, etc. (a 3% increase over last year) and another 1% of firms are considering doing so. Less than 2% of respondents indicated they do not offer flex options.

In this year’s survey, we added a question to ask which firms were offering flexible work arrangements on a case-by-case basis or informal basis, versus those firms offering formal or official flexible work arrangements. A third of the firms offering flex are doing so on a case-by-case basis.

We asked questions about when team members are working:

    • 36% of firms no longer mandate Saturday work during busy season, while 56% still mandate Saturday work. This question shows a decrease over 2014 results, where 41% of respondents told us that they no longer mandate Saturday work, a disappointing result for those of us at ConvergenceCoaching. We changed the question’s wording this year, in response to feedback that it was less clear in 2014, so we suspect (hope!) that this affected the year-over-year survey responses.Here are some of the comments received on this issue:
      • “We don’t require any work hours, just positive outcomes for clients.”
      • “Saturdays not required if you work the alloted hours during the week.”
      • “Saturdays optional up until two weeks before the deadline. Employees still have to get their hours worked each week.”
      • “Audit stopped this years ago. This is the first year that tax did not use the word mandatory.”
      • “We piloted offering two “no work” Saturdays and it was very well received.”
      • “Need to convince our tax partners of this.”
      • “We schedule many client meetings on Saturdays.”
      • “While it is optional, workload compression causes many to work on Saturday anyway.”

       

      We added a follow-up question to those who are still mandating Saturday hours, asking if staff members can work those hours from home. 28% (of those answering that Saturday is still required) reported that they do allow the hours to be worked from home, while 63% answered that the hours must be worked from the office.

    • 43% of firms have implemented performance measures for staff that are not based on time (up from 39% in 2014). 17% of respondents answered that they are thinking about implementing performance measures based on something other than time.
      • As we did in 2014, we will share more details and recommendations for non-time based performance measures we received from the survey in a future blog.

 

  • We asked a new question this year about firms offering an unlimited PTO or vacation program. 7% of firms are offering such programs, while another 4% are considering the idea. Here are some of the comments we received on the concept:
    • “Unlimited PTO for managers and above.”
    • “Managers and directors.”
    • “We’re concerned that people will still take enough time, and how to deal with medical and family leaves without a saved bank of PTO.”

We asked a few questions about where team members are working. We will dedicate an entire blog post to this issue, but here are a few highlights:

    • 92% of firms responding offer a work-from-home program (up from 77% in 2014). Over half of the respondents reported that their work-from-home program is for occasional rather than regular usage.

 

    • 45% of the responding firms employ remote workers in another geography not tied to a specific office (up from 37% in 2014). Two respondents noted that they utilize this option for seasonal tax season employees. Two other firms are piloting such a program with team members who have moved out of their geographic area.

 

    • 33% of respondents close their offices for all or part of Fridays during the summer (up from 27% in 2014). We added a new response this year, asking if team members are allowed to use PTO to take Fridays off even while the office is open, and 34% of respondents offer this option.We also asked firms how much of the day they close on Fridays during the summer. 78% of the firms that close (or 26% of the total survey population) close for a half day, while 22% of the firms that close (or 7% of the total survey population) close all day on Fridays.

 

    • Similar to 2014 results, only 7% of those surveyed close for the week between Christmas and New Year’s Eve (versus 8% in 2014). Three firms noted that the week is very busy with tax planning which gets in the way of taking time off. Here are a few additional comments we received:
      • “We close for two days Christmas week and New Year’s Day.”
      • “We give an additional two days to be taken between Christmas and New Year’s.”
      • “A large number of employees take vacation time during that week.”
      • “Our audit department closes but employees must use their PTO.”

 

  • 48% of respondents have a written policy in place for their anytime, anywhere work programs, up 1% from 2014’s result of 47%.

This year’s survey included a number of new technology questions, and we plan to share the IT practices that enable flexibility at these firms in a future blog post.

We are so grateful for the insightful feedback received from the 155 firms who participated in our 2015 Anytime, Anywhere Work Survey. The changes firms are piloting and driving encourage us, and we hope these results will inspire other firms to try out or progress flex programs of their own.

To attract next generation talent and sustain long-term, firms must move away from the time and place paradigm and embrace virtual work programs – the sooner, the better! You can count on us to continue to champion flex practices.

More on the survey to follow in September!

Gratefully,

www.convergencecoaching.com