By Emily Franchi
Demands for a flexible schedule or remote working environment among current and prospective CPAs are pushing firms outside of their comfort zone as they try to remain competitive. CPA firms that had not considered allowing employees to work remotely in the past, citing security and control reasons, are finding themselves with a limited local candidate pool and the potential for an employee exodus in search of a more flexible work environment.
No industry is immune from a lack of labor, even those among the professional class such as CPAs. “Help Wanted” is a literal sign of the times. Firms are struggling to source a strong candidate pool from local prospects, and are now looking outside their local areas – and even in other states – to find qualified candidates.
In addition, since the candidate pool has the upper hand, the demand for a dazzling compensation package is stronger than ever. Job seekers don’t have to settle. Through remote access, employees can work for firms located in any state while living in an area with a lower cost of living and, in turn, enjoying a better quality of life.
Of course, a remote workforce can bring greater risk. As firms consider the various factors to support a remote workforce, there are a few items to keep in mind.
- Consider background checks on candidates who rise to the top of your list. Contact the candidate’s references and ask about work habits, strengths, and weaknesses. Many past employers will shy away from providing such detail, but it doesn’t hurt to ask.
- Review and update policies that impact a remote work group, such as cybersafety, use of firm resources, and care of client files.
- Create a checklist for an employee’s home office to ensure cybersafety, and address issues such as a firewall, secured network, remote swipe, and firm-provided phone.
Once remote employees are onboard, firms must ensure that processes are keeping employees engaged, heard, and feeling valued. Create opportunities for engagement and have a solid remote work policy that addresses expectations of a remote worker. Such a policy may address the following:
- Employees should be available and engaged during regular business hours.
- While the employee’s remote office need not be a dedicated room or office, the space should be free from distractions, pets, and young children. Allow for a secure space where firm and client information cannot be accessed by others and phone calls are private.
- Express expectations related to meetings on Zoom, Teams, and other virtual meeting platforms. Address issues such as requiring the employee to have their camera on or allowing them to keep the camera off, dress code while on virtual meetings, and backgrounds.
The firm of the future is here. With the advice of a risk management adviser, firms can gain an understanding of potential risk and create best practices to support the new workplace.
Emily Franchi is the loss prevention specialist for employment practices with CAMICO Mutual Insurance Company in San Mateo, Calif. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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