Office life – Flexibility at work

Attracting top talent is a challenge for most businesses and nearly every accounting firm

Flexible working arrangements can make your practice an employer of choice.

In their fight for the best employees, the top end of town has been spruiking flexible working arrangements for some time now. PwC, for example, allows employees to apply to work part time, or alternative hours or even job share. In addition, the firm offers staff the opportunity to work from home and supports career breaks.

But while providing many benefits, offering flexible working arrangements can also create some big headaches, particularly for smaller accounting firms.

“It’s full of challenges, to be honest,” says Fleming Stojanovski, CEO of Sydney-based accounting firm Commercial Associates.

Accountants need to be responsive to clients’ demands and able to provide services when clients want them; which makes flexibility foreign to many firms. However, despite this, Commercial Associates does offer flexible working arrangements because the net result is a positive one.

Many smaller accounting firms are strategically located close to their customer base, which can be convenient for clients but not always appealing to accountants. This, Mr Stojanovski says, has driven his firm’s decision to offer flexible working arrangements.

Commercial Associates has three offices: one in Sydney’s CBD, one further west in Parramatta and a small office located on Sydney’s western edge in Penrith. In this smaller office, five of seven staff are currently on flexible working arrangements.

“The biggest advantage (for the firm) would definitely be accessing quality staff and retaining quality staff in places where it would otherwise be a revolving door,” he says.

According to Mr Stojanovski, the firm has simply had to offer flexible arrangements in order for them to “get good staff, of a reasonable technical standard, who are happy and willing to work in Penrith”.

Interestingly, despite being “full of challenges” in terms of meeting client expectations, managing staff
remotely is actually quite easy for an accounting firm, says Mr Stojanovski.

“We know how to count time in six minute intervals very well,” he says.

“You can’t hide from the time sheets.”

And technology facilitates the process as well, he adds.

“Our main server is here in our CBD head office and each satellite office runs off that server anyway, so somebody doing the same thing from home is neither here nor there.”

The benefits of flexible working arrangements can include:

  • Improved staff morale, motivation and productivity.
  • Being an employer of choice.
  • Reducing staff turnover and absenteeism.
  • Reducing staffing costs.
  • Attracting staff you may not have otherwise appealed to.

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