Today, you will return to the office after what seems an eternity of work from home. First, a stop by your favorite coffee shop for a steaming cup of morning brew to ease the angst as you begin another chapter. Much has changed in 15 months. Thanks to a new hybrid work arrangement, you will be in the firm’s headquarters two days a week. You will use these days to collaborate with colleagues, strategize with stakeholders, hold advisory meetings with clients and network with referral sources. Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays you will work from home, where you will concentrate on solo projects, special engagements, blogging and calls. This mix provides the flexibility you desire to maintain a work/life integration that is right for you and your lifestyle. You are grateful for the clear, honest communication that firm leaders provided in preparation for the reopening. You feel in control because you have identified what is important to you, pinpointed positive new routines to continue and marked unwanted elements to leave behind. One more sip and you will be ready to walk into the office with a renewed sense of excitement and focus. Finally, the chance to connect face to face with colleagues and clients as you look to the future.
Wonder what is on the minds of others as the world reopens? Let’s look at key findings.
Nine in ten employees want flexibility in where and when they work
49% prefer a hybrid work arrangement, where they can divide their time between the office and another location
54% are likely to quit if they aren’t offered the flexibility they want – with millennials two times as likely as baby boomers to quit
Despite the apparent willingness to move jobs for more flexible working arrangements, 76% say they are satisfied with their jobs
93% are likely to stay with their current employer for at least 12 months
Seven take-charge tips
While the coming weeks and months will not always be easy, you can enjoy a smoother transition with a little upfront planning. Short on time? No worries, try these seven tips for greater control.
Use the reopening for a personal restart
Before you settle into a routine, focus on what you want your new normal to be. Get clear on your goals and what is important to you. Reflect on positive practices you’ve adopted over the past 15 months (selfcare, mental health and honest conversations between colleagues, clients and stakeholders). Revisit key lessons learned.
What is your desired new normal?
Looking to the future, what is important to you?
What routines do you want to continue? Leave behind?
Talk expectations and accountability
Working from the office on a more frequent basis is a big change for many. Discuss the details with employees. Make sure remote working policies are up to date and employees understand their expectations. Talk about how accountability fits into the equation. Help everyone recognize how the changes will personally affect them. Address employees’ questions and concerns.
What changes will your firm make? What will stay the same?
What will these changes mean to your employees? You and the firm?
What will accountability mean in this new scenario?
The newly released Private Companies Practice Section (PCPS) Accountability tools, exclusively available to PCPS members, can help to bring self-awareness, structure and clarity to firm processes, leading to a more engaged and accountable firm culture.
Capitalize on a potential hybrid working environment
There are all sorts of benefits of this new arrangement, such as increased flexibility in when and where you work, decreased commute times and greater acceptance of virtual meetings that make it easier to connect with those you need to reach. Some will be obvious, while others will slowly emerge. Firms may experience greater access to new talent and clients locally, regionally and nationally, decreased travel expenses and lower office costs. The key to capitalizing on your new environment is to focus on what is most valuable to you in achieving your goals. Look for new opportunities. Then find your rhythm in this new space.
What benefits of the new environment are you most looking forward to? Why?
What opportunities does this new way of working provide?
Do you need assistance or support with the transition?
Continue your firm’s momentum
You have worked hard for your clients, acted as a sounding board to help their businesses weather the storm, identified ways to meet their customers’ changing needs, provided assistance with business relief loans and identified solutions to manage supply chain realities. Your empathy and honest dialogue have created tremendous trust, camaraderie and goodwill. Keep it going. Make it a priority to reach out to clients and learn what is important to them. Identify new and expanded services that they want. Get clear on how you can bring the value they seek.
What are your current priorities? Challenges?
What types of assistance are most important to you?
With more offices reopening, what are your preferences to meet and stay in touch?
Don’t forget the AICPA Town Hall Series which will help you stay up to date on the latest news, analysis, insights and practical guidance to ensure you remain your clients’ most trusted adviser.
While you may not have all the answers about how your firm will fully reopen, realize that uncertainty and a lack of communication add to your employees’ angst. Start with what you know. Your team will be grateful to learn what is coming. Such knowledge will allow them to arrange personal details (transportation, child, elder and pet care) and office details (reserving desks, scheduling meetings with clients, colleagues and referral sources). They will appreciate your candidness when you tell them that all the details are not sorted. Tap all your team to help identify solutions. Be sure to keep clients in the know too.
How often do you communicate with your team? Clients?
Have you discussed what the reopening will look like in your firm?
Do you incorporate employees’ and clients’ input in firm solutions?
Make mental health a top priority
As practitioners, we pride ourselves in caring for our clients, yet it is more important than ever to first care for ourselves. Especially during this period of uncertainty, angst, loneliness and loss. Go easy on yourself when you enter this new phase. Give yourself the proper attention to feel good about you. Being your best is essential to sharing your knowledge and unique talents with those who look to you for guidance and support.
As firm leaders, it is also important to initiate conversations about mental health regularly with employees. Provide information on what to do when someone needs assistance. Encourage your team to lookout for each other. No complicated procedures, rather a simple “Are you okay?” For more tips on how to get started, checkout the November 2020 Feature Focus, Ushering mental health into the workplace.
What regular practices do you engage in to care for your mental and physical health?
Are you clear on the mental health assistance and support that your firm provides?
Is mental health and wellbeing a part of your firm’s ongoing conversation?
Acknowledge everyone on your team for their hard work and dedication during this challenging period. A personal thank you goes a long way after a job well done. Share positive comments that colleagues and clients have voiced too. Recognize those who go above and beyond to achieve their goals and the firm’s goals. Give your pre-COVID recognitions a remix with TikTok style videos, virtual high five celebrations and certificates from Amazon, Uber Eats, local wellness centers or clients’ businesses. Poll your team for insights on how they want to be recognized. Beware of playing favorites to those working directly on projects with you and others in the office with you.
How do you thank your employees? Frequency?
Do you know the preferred ways that members of your team want to be recognized?
Are you playing favorites to those working in the office with you rather than those working remotely?
Here’s to a successful reentry. May you, your firm and your clients thrive in this new chapter.