In June 2015, we launched our 2015 Anytime, Anywhere survey to collect information about the adoption of flexible work initiatives within public accounting firms. In this last installment on our survey analysis, we’d like to share what we learned from the 155 survey participants about the flexible work program documentation and communication processes in their firms. To begin, we were excited to see more firms adopting an official policy document, with an increase of 9% over last year’s result.

Of the 56% of firms who do have a written policy, 14% reported that their policy document is outdated or incomplete. We strongly believe that the best way to reduce conflict and disappointment within your team is to clearly establish expectations, and there is no better way to accomplish this than by having a clear-cut, transparent, and up-to-date policy document. Survey participants agreed as you’ll see from the comments that follow.

  • Have a clear policy in place
    • “Spend time formally structuring the program to avoid confusion later.”
    • “As the firm grows it becomes difficult to manage without guidelines.”
    • “It will help avoid resentment and misuse.”
    • “Even for teleworking on an as-needed basis, it’s important to have a written policy in place clearly defining the requirements and expectations.”
    • “Have it documented and be consistent.”
  • Establish a process for requesting and approving program participation
    • “Have an application approval process. We didn’t at first and it’s becoming important as we grow.”
    • “Put any agreements in writing and make sure there is a clause that it can be pulled at any time.”
  • Be transparent about the programs that are available
    • “Make sure the policy is available to everyone.”
    • “Keep it simple and be fair.”
    • “Don’t make it a secret program that others resent.”
  • Consider the policy a work in process and revisit it on a regular basis
    • “Periodically re-evaluate your policies.”
    • “Stick to the policies created but make changes if needed.”
  • Develop performance measures and clear expectations
    • “Document expectations related to availability and communication.”
    • “Emphasize that client service and response time cannot suffer and that communication with project team members is critical.”
  • Create a framework for evaluating the success of flexible work arrangements
    • “Set formal check-ins.”
    • “Re-evaluate individual agreements on a six-month or annual basis to ensure it is working for both the employer and employee. Be willing to modify agreements based upon feedback from clients or the team.”

If you are offering flex programs but don’t have a policy, or if your policy document needs updating, what’s the best way to get started? First, we recommend you assemble a committee or roundtable of people who will work through the issues necessary to develop a policy document. Ask that group to review our policy blog from the 2014 survey entitled What Does Your Firm Expect from Your Anytime, Anywhere Work Programs for a list of “must-haves” to include in your policy, as well as this sample policy document. Next, ask a committee member to record all of the programs currently in use at the firm, including more exclusive programs like compressed work week or work from home, as well as those that are generally available (like remote access from home outside of business hours, holiday breaks, and early start/late start.) Review the list with the committee and identify gaps and next steps to developing a policy document.
Most importantly, we hope you will consider your policy a living, breathing document that will be updated and changed on a regular basis – at least annually. Approaching it this way will relieve some of the pressure to get it perfect on the first draft, and leave the door open to exploring new flexible work program opportunities as they arise.
We are big believers in the value of flexible, virtual work arrangements, as well as the importance of having transparent documentation about those arrangements. We hope you’ll begin the necessary steps today to shore up your policy and begin communicating openly about the flexible arrangements your staff can access.
Please let us know about your successes (and roadblocks) as you create or improve your policy. We’d love to hear from you!
Best regards,