Our latest Forum with Managing Partners and CEOs to share challenges and best practice focued on three main topics:
With most firms having decided on their health and safety approach in the workplace there are moves to get people back in phases. Usually starting with those who are most keen to return, often this was found to be the trainees and younger staff but not exclusively so.
The challenge is whether it’s possible to get people back. In recent surveys in professional services we have seen statistics showing only a 15% desire to return to an office in the immediate term and people on the call had 5 positive responses out of 135 staff, another had 9 positive out of 291 staff.
It is clear that when people do return to an office, it will be different to the way that we used to work in 2019, as attendees say it is likely that no more than 50% of people will ever be in the office at one time.
The ‘Welcome back’ pack
One firm had put together a welcome pack for those returning, designed to be friendly, useful and helpful it contained a cool bag, water bottles etc to discourage use of communal cooking areas, plus wipes, cleaners and a tool to avoid using door handles or touchpads. Plus an A5 guide to the workplace.
People had assigned return to office champions to promote safe working and advise on best practice.
The office as a place to work, will change in future and many agreed it needs to become a place to collaborate as many will do their ‘work’ remotely. So there is much to do in creating a vibrant and exciting place to be together and drive collaboration and team working.
There is going to be a need to encourage a sense of community across all staff, whether working in the office or from a remote location. This is a tough challenge as it is cultural but nonetheless must be addressed by all firms. It has repercussions for recruitment, on-boarding, engaging with trainees, right the way through to managing the promotion processes. While this is difficult it must be addressed if firms are to thrive.
The impact on your processes
Firms need to write agile working policies and practices that cover data protection, disposal of confidential waste and make amendments to contracts to cover all these issues.
Many firms have created a Covid timecode that has been used over the last few months where work is being done for a client that may well be attributed to goodwill rather than something chargeable or recoverable.
While this code is being used less currently, it is interesting to identify the kind of conversations that people feel are non-chargeable, yet maybe incredibly valuable for the client. This is the foundation of a good advisory practice and is one of the main reasons why firms are often poor at supporting clients in this way. Often the best conversations are not chargeable and focus on strategy, future plans, business challenges and things that an accountant or lawyer cannot immediately resolve, but a business owner needs to discuss with a safe pair of hands.
People with multiple offices are distilling services into central functions, so bookkeeping may be run out of one office, post is focused in one office etc …
It was agreed that being head of innovation can be a thankless task and it’s often focused on ways of working. As one commentator observed, everyone in the firm is ‘comfortable’ and a big focus on innovation rarely works. It needs regular, drip feeding in order to get people to adopt new ideas and ways of working. Everett Rogers theory of innovation suggests you focus all your effort on the innovators, early adopters and early majority rather than trying to change the laggards (and everyone has them). The late majority will follow the early majority and the laggards will finally catch up when everybody else is on board. Don’t waste time trying to convince people who find change incredibly difficult.
In closing we discussed the difference between a letter of support and a deed of support that may be required in future as Going concern issues are fundamental for an auditor.
Our next call is on Friday 31st July, at 1pm. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org to receive your invitation.
Summaries of earlier calls can be found here.
This article from Deloitte is also a great read on the subject of “The Board’s role in guiding the return to work“