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Bring back the office: Hybrid working post-pandemicby
Even as workplace restrictions start to ease, more firms are opting for a hybrid-working approach post-pandemic to reap the best of both worlds.
For some accountants, working from home during the pandemic and associated lockdowns came as a welcome respite from the stresses of office life.
For others, the return to the office can’t come soon enough.
“I can’t wait,” said Sarah Wynne, managing director of Wynne & Co. “I miss the team, the interaction, the clients, the fun side. I’ve spent two years making sure I didn’t bring work home with me, not having a personal phone, not having work emails on my phone - I didn’t want that in my home environment. And then you’re thrust into a situation where the spare bedroom is my office.”
Wynne observed that her team’s mental health has been affected by remote working, through issues such as isolation and overwork.
Pre-pandemic, Wynne already adopted a more flexible approach at her firm. If a member of the team ever needed to clock off early, they knew they could approach Wynne with that request. In return, Wynne said she received loyalty and low staff turnover.
“When I set up Wynne & Co, the whole point to me was spending time with my kid,” she said. “That’s our ethos as a firm - health, wellbeing, kids, family.”
Remote working and wellbeing
“I think that people shouldn't underestimate the impact on mental health of working at home,” Wynne said. “Mentally it’s a really lonely thing, even though we have regular team meetings and communicate with each other.”
The impact of isolation has been a constant issue during lockdown, with many accountants reporting lower levels of motivation and productivity at work throughout the past year.
A hybrid future
“Potentially we’ll keep some sort of homework because we know we can do it, and we’ve gone paperless so we can work anywhere,” said Wynne.
When the initial UK lockdown was imposed early in 2020, the Wynne & Co team managed to get the entire client database on line in just three days, when Wynne thought it might have taken around six months to complete in the pre-pandemic days. She says it was all down to having the right technology to be able to pull off the process.
While she’s desperate to get back to the office, the opportunity to work anywhere is one she thinks the team will appreciate. This is where hybrid working comes into play.
Practices from the Big Four down are embracing hybrid home-office work as a response to the ups and downs of the past year - integrating the best of both worlds into the post-pandemic era.
Director of 1 Accounts Online, Paul Donno, is also opting for the hybrid approach post-pandemic: “Coming out of this, we’ll see our team coming in two or three days a week to the office, but then two or three days a week at home. Blended working will be the way forward.
“Flexible working makes you attractive as an employer,” he continued. “It’s a much nicer working environment.”
Throughout the world, the pandemic highlighted the importance of maintaining a positive work/life balance; Spain is even set to launch a national four-day working week to improve the working lives of employees.
Tech and teamwork
Moving forward with its new paperless environment, the team at Wynne & Co has done away with fixed desks and files in favour of a more communal approach.
The firm is currently stripping out all non-essential furniture and turning the office into an open, bright, minimalistic space with hot desks. That means that no one in the team will have their “own” desk, but will switch and swap around as they fancy. “It’s completely transformed the way we use the building,” said the firm’s MD.
For Wynne, going paperless is the number one way to prepare your team for hybrid working. Investing in proper tech has been the catalyst many firms needed in order to adjust quickly to the circumstance of coronavirus.
“There’s so many cloud-based tools out there now that I think that if firms haven’t moved to it, they’re just going to be dead in the water really,” commented Donno.