In the recent Chartered Accountants Leinster Society Salary Survey 2021, in partnership with Barden, Elaine Brady, Managing Partner with Barden, took a closer look at “location flexibility” when it comes to the new world of work. Here she shares her insights…

80% of accountants surveyed cited location flexibility as the single most valuable aspect of flexibility in their jobs. However, as we head into a post-pandemic world it’s important to put some definitions in place around the term “location flexibility” so as to establish a common language for the future.

In Barden we’ve had 100s of conversations already with hiring managers, HR consultants and the accounting profession itself around this very topic and there is definitely some confusion out there as to whether it means remote working or working from home, how they differ and what some of the new norms and expectations will be around these two approaches.  In Barden we’ve created the following definitions:

Now, let’s get a couple of things clear:

  1. Remote working, as defined, was possible to do in the extreme stress of the pandemic period but it is not a sustainable way forward for the vast majority of companies. Some roles, perhaps those with a project orientation or with those with a low value, high volume, administrative function might indeed be worked remotely (that’s why companies often offshore that activity already).  However, when it comes to real value creating activity it’s far less likely to be achievable remotely.  Where roles are being worked fully remotely there may also need to be a separation of office location and pay levels, a reconciliation between where the work is being done and salaries in that location rather than at the office location.  For example paying Dublin salaries to remote employees in Sligo will just not wash in the long term.  Some companies who are facilitating fully remote working have already begun this equalising process.
  2. Work from home is a far more realistic and sustainable way forward and what we predict the majority of companies will embrace to some degree. Work from home of course has its own variables such as number of days in/out of office and the provision for at home working allowances/facilities, insurance cover and other factors.  It is in the variables of work from home that companies have a real opportunity to be competitive for talent and a genuine chance to create a hybrid approach to work that can be enticing for new talent and a huge barrier to exit for existing talent.

How you organise work from home in your business will have a material impact on the make up of your team in the long term.  We’ve a number of recommendations around this in Barden; here are just a few:

  1. 2 | 2 | 1 approach: 2 days in the office, 2 days from home if desired and 1 day flexible depending on the needs of the business.  The 1 flexible day gives options – allowing a company to cater to the needs of the individual and to the needs of the business.  Flexibility within flexibility.  That’s where competitive advantage resides.
  2. Organise by team rather than by location: Flexibility with too many rules begins to feel rigid.  If you can, hand over responsibility for organising the 2: 2: 1 approach to individual teams and allow them to self-organise.  There is no point being in the office on your own so good teams will naturally organise themselves in a way that brings them together rather than keeps them apart.  It also will hand options to your people and options, regardless of whether they are exercised or not, are hugely empowering.
  3. Frequent (perhaps monthly) short (1-2 hours) all hands meetings for communication of key things, for team activities and for L&D.

If you can get the mix right for your team, people will begin to organise their life around their work in a different way to before.  It will empower them to use their time to create the best value for themselves and for you.  Of course, flexibility within flexibility needs trust to work; but if you don’t have trust then you probably have bigger problems to address.

To download your copy of the Salary Survey 2021 click here.