Firms want to protect their current employees and recruit new ones. Yet, the answer is not a simple policy update. It's a complete and total culture shift.
The long-lasting solution requires firms (with old-school partners) to acknowledge the transformational requirements of implementing a deep culture change that goes along with such a policy. Good intentions only go so far.
I have run a firm with a part-time, full-time, and flex time virtual employee along with my partner. My team has the opportunity to work remote part, most, or all of the time. Aside from the regular workflow task-oriented kind of software implementation, as well as the understood notion that all of our software is in the cloud, our practice requires a different type of management with extra communication and a clear definition of expectations and results.
It hasn't been easy but I believe it works for all those involved.
I'll be the first to tell you it's not perfect, however, we have a commitment as a firm to make it work. I also believe that because we have a hybrid culture, it is perhaps more complex than even a 100-percent virtual environment.
But the hardest part is not the technology or the "policies."
It's the acceptance of managing in new ways for the partners, managers, and even the managed. It's about letting go of the notion that we have control over how and when work gets done and trust that with clear expectations and explanations the work does get done.
This is the shift that is hard for the old school type firms that manage by timesheet and the expectation that if someone is sitting in a desk "at work" they must be producing and a "hard worker."
Is the solution to get rid of the timesheet, and begin to manage in new ways? That's one of the starting points. Start with workflow and milestones and see if your team is meeting them in a real time. It's a better measurement than looking at a time sheet that is a month old anyway.
Recently, I had a call with a mid-sized New York area firm that was asking me about new ideas to help implement a remote work policy. The surprising thing was they knew what had to change, but they had to get buy-in from their other partners. That's a hopeful sign that things are going to change to the "New Firm" ideas.
Change doesn't happen until the pain of staying the same is worse than changing. Hopefully, the talent war will be the exact catalyst to get things moving.
Jody Padar has begun publishing an enewsletter, the Radical CPA. Those interested can sign up at cpaclick.com/join-jody