Do accountants still need an office in the age of COVID?
Do I still need an office?
That’s the question that accountancy practice owners may be asking themselves amid the great remote working experiment, forced upon us by the pandemic.
And evidence is growing that staff will shun a future of full-time office hours.
Bosses: working patterns changed forever
Indeed, the British Council for Offices suggests, after its latest research, that working patterns for office-based staff have changed for good.
It has concluded (following a major survey) that the established culture of working five days a week in the office is over. Bosses and employees both expressed this view.
IRIS’ next normal survey found that, already, over 49% of accountants have recently enacted flexible working. Read the full report here.
And further evidence suggests productivity is not dropping – but increasing – for many.
A recent survey by academics found 41% of estimating they got as much work done at home as they did six months earlier when most, but not all, were in their usual places of work.
Will accountants ditch their offices?
For some, the idea of giving up the office is unconscionable; it is a status symbol, making an impression on clients, contacts, and potential recruits. For others, offices are an expensive millstone, especially now.
The empty office: costs are mounting
Many offices have been closed for substantial portions of the pandemic. The operating costs continue to roll in, with rent, rates, tax, and bills mounting up. Figures put rents outside London for commercial office space at anywhere between £417 (high end) per square metre in Reading, to £265 (low end) per square metre Newcastle.
Already, firms have seen the difficulties and costs of returning to the office, with stringent safety measures needed. For starters, there’s cubicles, shields, socially distant desks, rigorous cleaning, copious hand sanitiser, and no more hot desking; enough space to distance employees.
Lease expiry: a chance to start again?
Should your lease be about to end or if there is a break clause in your contract, this may come as a blessing in disguise. This could present the opportunity to break free of costly rent during a tough time. Speculation is that the rental market will be flooded with commercial space when the casualties of the crisis are revealed, and lower rents may be up for grabs.
Keep the office but downsize?
Are bigger spaces worth the overheads? Do they drive productivity or promote wellbeing? Or is it vanity over sanity? Downsizing to a smaller space may be an unfortunate but necessary solution for firms needing to make redundancies or cut costs.
What’s to come?
With attitudes shifting, might 2021 be the year accountants bid farewell to the office? Time will tell.