Work 2020: What Does it Mean for You, Your Firm and your Clients?
by Lyle Ball, co-founder and CEO of Avii
Are your gains outpacing your losses as you evolve your digital workspace?
As accounting firms settle into the “newer normal” of both internal and client interactions during the next phase of the COVID pandemic, what does this mean for your employees? And what does it mean for your business?
Undoubtedly, the definition or the crux of what we consider “work” significantly evolved over the past decade and is being accelerated by COVID. We’re increasingly adopting higher levels of digital interaction and automation, resulting in leaner processes and evolution of our careers from accounting historians to trusted advisors. Simultaneously, automation lifts us further away from the operational and mundane activities that reduce efficiency and profitability, prevent the most ideal use of our time and ultimately kill our joy.
This evolution is here to stay. The changes induced by COVID have served to make it more urgent and more expansive.
However, there are other, more nuanced evolutions in the new world of business.
For example,how many of your employees and clients are working from home, not at home? There is a distinct difference that we should examine in greater detail.
Are you working from home or working at home?
Both of these concepts have meaning and benefits, as well as challenges and risks that we need to surmount.
Essentially, “working from home” is something we consider a benefit, and a way of leveraging the talents of our best individuals by allowing them to remain functional (or in some cases to become even more functional) from home as a way to squeeze in additional productivity and to avoid the proximity to the day to day interruptions at work. Working from home is periodic and temporary.
You may work from a laptop at your kitchen table or home office, but you still have the structure and format of business as usual. No one will forget to copy you to a message because you’re physically located away, for example.
To accommodate working from home, it’s important to consider the compliance and privacy issues of the physical documents you work with and the client information that might be overseen from nearby family members or overhead in the times you work via phone. Internet bandwidth and security is an issue as well, to ensure work is unimpeded and the security of your connection is strong.
Working at Home
Working at home is another phenomenon still, and is a more permanent state. Working at home has caught many organizations unprepared during the shelter-at-home phases of most companies’ COVID response. Completing part- or full-time work for an extended period from a location away from the firm’s facilities requires an entirely different set of skills, workflow management, and company resources.
Those who join a firm as remote workers will be specifically prepared in process requirements, time management protocols and even equipment and secure access paths to the company, peers and clients from the very inception of their roles. However, in the aftermath of COVID, many organizations (and employees and their clients) have had their typical processes thrown to the wind.
Remote work, whether as an interim solution or a new solution perhaps imposed suddenly can test a company’s limits. It requires individuals to create their own physical workspace, albeit with suggestions or help from the firm they serve while adapting to the firm’s mandated digital workspace.
Firm culture tends to shift as a newly-forged work-from-home arrangement leads to family members who may forget the individual is working and assume they are available and “on call.” And employees, themselves, may revert to the “to-do” checklist of tasks as opposed to “leaning in” to the future of their role and the business in the way they would have otherwise done in the physical presence of their manager and peers.
Technology to the Rescue
In our current era, accounting firms are readily aware of the need and role of new technology to overcome the gaps that have become even bigger in the COVID er. The newest research from Accounting Today shows that nearly 60% of accountings see an increasing need for AI and machine learning, and more than half recognize the growing need for greater automation of every kind.
But in my opinion, at the helm of Avii, today’s evolving work speaks more than ever to the need, and the value, of an integrated and unified platform to cover the software and workflow management needs of today’s workplace.