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Working from home and office AccountingWEB Is office based work making a comeback?

Is it time to go back to the office?


The pandemic was an employment game changer, making working from home seem like the way forward. However, the tide has now turned and more employers are encouraging staff back into the office.

5th Feb 2024
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Firms that once opened their arms to the post-pandemic new flexible ways of working are re-examining this approach as they emphasise the importance of returning to the office. The pullback to office-based work is already happening at Big Four firms, with EY introducing a swipe card system to crack down on employees flouting working-from-home (WFH) guidelines. 

The debate between WFH and working in the office was introduced on Any Answers as the community shared their views on which option they preferred.

The discussion will continue to the Festival of Accounting & Bookkeeping on 13 and 14 March, where the WFH vs Office debate will be one of several topics discussed on the battle panel.

Resisting the office return 

It can be hard to go back to office-based working once you’ve got used to the WFH life, saving time and money on commuting and enjoying flexible hours from the comfort of your own home. Those who have experienced WFH don’t want to go back.

AccountingWEB member, mbee1 commented, “Our default is WFH. No one wants to work from the office permanently and we no longer have fixed hours. Subject to the needs of the business, staff can work when they like as long as the work gets done. Staff are happier and productivity is through the roof.”

Another commenter, Missing in action, agreed with the increased productivity and said that WFH not only allows you to work better when you’re unwell but also the office comes with its own distractions. “I had the flu recently and despite struggling on my feet, I was able to lie on my sofa with my laptop and work to my deadline. I wouldn’t have managed in the office. Plus I get so many people dropping by and stealing my time with unnecessary watercooler chat,” they said. 

Regular contributor, 17RDR12, echoed the office distractions: “When I am at home I may take 15 minutes out of my day to load my washing machine, but that is nothing compared to the time lost looking at pictures of colleagues’ holidays, children, grandchildren and cats, or general gossip.”

Many felt that WFH can still be social and this should not be one of the drawbacks. “We do plenty of social remote sessions, morning brews, games, simple face-to-face. This is fine for us but I understand some people see social as physical but this is not the case,” JustAnotherUser wrote. 

Office enthusiasts 

However, others are welcoming and encouraging the shift back to office-based work, believing it to be more productive and suitable. 

AWEB regular Mr_awol strongly objected to WFH, viewing it as less efficient and an opportunity for certain employees not to work as hard. “We have surveyed staff and monitored KPIs. It is obvious that WFH is less efficient and in our experience leads to lower quality output,” he wrote. 

Mr_awol continued, “If I were an employee with the ability to swerve targets or fiddle performance metrics, I’d probably want to WFH more as the employer pays for the inefficiency.”

Another member, Adam.arca expressed that having a work/life balance is easier in the office. “I’m anti-WFH as I much prefer the obvious separation and the better work/life balance which flows from that given by an office.”

The main advantage that others brought up with office-based work was being able to have suitable training. Viciuno said, “Trainees working from home is not sustainable, desirable or conducive to a good training environment. You are doing yourself and more importantly them a disservice.”

Others agreed and acknowledged that office-based training allows employees to pick up skills and knowledge that would be hard from a WFH position. 

“People ask questions, talk about clients and what they are having to deal with. Although you may not say to the trainee beside you ‘Did you understand what happened there?’ you can bet they were listening. They’ll overhear phone calls, how to speak to people, what to say and more importantly what not to say,” Viciuno continued. 

Embracing the hybrid approach 

As with most of these debates, the happy medium seems to always be the desired outcome and in this case, having a mix of home and office work seems preferable. 

Commenter Yossarian said: “I did hybrid working and that to me was the ideal mix. I often did genuinely get as much done in the two days at home as the three days in the office.”

Hybrid working was also preferred by Kestrepo who shared the importance of being able to have the option. “You would expect a surgeon undertaking an operation on a patient at home to be struck off but equally would not want them completing their paperwork in theatre! Find the right place at the right time for the right task.”

Are you enjoying the WFH vs Office debate? Continue the discussion alongside other great debates at the NEC, Birmingham at the Festival of Accounting & Bookkeeping on 13–14 March.

Replies (1)

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By johnjenkins
06th Feb 2024 17:09

A lot of people have changed their modus operandi after lockdown. I've had a few clients of a certain age that have reduced work load considerably. So I don't think it is a question of "getting back to the office" in many cases.

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