In its most recent Economic Outlook Survey, the AICPA found that while many accounting firms are sticking with remote work for the time being (and plan to be more open to it going forward), their long-term plans involve a return to physical offices – albeit with new safety measures and pandemic protocols in place.
Of the more than 1,000 leaders of CPA firms who weighed in for the survey during late August and early September, 22% say they plan to continue with primarily remote operations over the next 12 months. However, 82% say they will not be reducing their office space in the coming year, signaling their intentions to eventually start bringing their staffs back together as circumstances allow – nearly half of all respondents said they plan to return principally or entirely to traditional onsite operations, provided restrictions are eased or not in place.
To address the safety of employees and customers as they return to those offices – the top pandemic-related concern for the next 12 months for 33% of respondents – most companies plan to add new measures, including mandated masks in the workplace (74%), socially distanced workspaces (71%), personal protection equipment (64%) and health screenings (52%).
“Many companies were forced abruptly into remote work situations by the pandemic and performed surprisingly well,” says managing director of CGMA learning, education and development Ash Noah. “The crisis accelerated the virtual teams and remote trends already underway. We will see businesses being more flexible in their approach and adopting a hybrid operating model that will become more commonplace over the next few years.”