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The future of work

How Praxity participant firms are responding to the workplace revolution

By Ian Lavis on behalf of Praxity Global Alliance

In our first survey of working patterns since the beginning of the pandemic, we examine what’s changed and what’s in store for Praxity participant firms around the globe.

We asked 60 Managing Partners and senior accounting professionals at member firms to explain changes to working practices forced by Covid-19 and whether any would stick.

The responses reveal the size and scope of the workplace revolution, the realignment expected in the coming months, and the marked differences geographically.

While Praxity participant firms worldwide switched to mass remote working and flexible work patterns astonishingly quickly, it is clear the traditional central office is far from defunct. Indeed, many professionals are already returning to their former offices in parts of the world where the impact of Covid-19 is less severe.

Based on our findings, the future of work will be highly fluid, with greater flexibility in the location and method of working, and more support for employee wellbeing and greater use of technology.

Global trends

The three most common employee initiatives introduced during the pandemic:

  • Greater flexibility in working hours
  • Wellbeing and stress management training
  • Resilience sessions

Biggest challenges facing employees:

  • Motivation and maintaining work-life balance
  • Training and development of junior staff
  • Maintaining and strengthening client relationships

Biggest challenges facing partners and managers:

  • Motivating and managing staff remotely
  • Remote training and managing young/inexperienced staff
  • Communicating across teams

Where accounting professionals will work by the end of 2020:

  • 56% of accounting professionals will work in the office full-time
  • 17% will work from home full-time
  • 28% will work will split their time between office and home

The three most common predictions for working practices:

  • Recruitment from a wider region as office presence becomes less important
  • Greater use of technology
  • Less travel

The three most common predictions for the traditional office:

  • Same size as today
  • More flexible use of space
  • More hot-desking

Regional trends

Our survey reveals marked differences in working patterns between regions. This is trend is set to continue.

Firms in Latin America have been quicker to embrace remote working than in other regions, with 17% of employees already working from home full-time prior to the pandemic. This rose to 80% in August, but the figure is predicted to fall back to 35% by the end of the year. A further 30% are predicted to split their time between home and office working at the end of 2020.

Elsewhere, full-time home working was almost non-existent in the USA (2%) and rare in Asia Pacific (4%) and Europe (6%) pre-Covid. The USA has seen the most dramatic transformation with 97% of people working from home full-time in August. This is predicted to fall back to 17% by the end of the year, which is still considerably higher than before the pandemic.

In Europe, full-time home working is expected to drop from 27% in August to just 9% at the end of 2020, and in Asia Pacific from 45% to 20%, indicating considerable differences in approach to the workplace revolution around the world.

Flexible working is likely to become more important in future, especially in the USA, where employees working between home predicted to rise to 37% by the end of the year. This compares to 27% in Asia Pacific and 25% in Europe.

The marked regional differences could be linked to different ‘waves’ and severity of the pandemic across the world, and different government responses. It should be noted that given the highly volatile situation, predictions could be significantly revised in the months ahead.

Making things better

Praxity participant firms have been quick to introduce measures to help employees adjust to new ways of working and new work spaces.

Training has been a priority for many firms, including mindfulness, wellbeing, stress management and psychological therapy online.

Focus has also been placed on changes to working hours, the provision of new technology to facilitate remote working, the introduction of virtual team lunches, coffee breaks and online games, yoga and pilates, and greater communication between team members.

In the months ahead, our survey reveals firms intend to prioritise listening to employee needs, introducing new technology to make processes easier to understand and control, and to further enhance communication.