Hopefully, the world will witness the winding down of the COVID-19 pandemic this year. However, it is clear now that office-based workers, including tax preparers and accountants, will not return to business as usual in the traditional workplace. In fact, 87% of business leaders surveyed by EY said “the pandemic has changed the role of the office for their organization.”1 Consequently, EY found 75% of leaders do not anticipate returning to the traditional office model.
Large accounting firms, such as Big 4 firms PwC and EY, as well as regional firm DHG, have led the profession in adopting a more permanent remote work strategy, announcing plans to make hybrid remote work a permanent option for the significant majority of their employees.2
These very large firms had to overcome significant logistical, real estate, and business process hurdles to adopt a permanent hybrid or remote workplace strategy. Fortunately for smaller firms, it is easier to go fully or partially remote when you’re managing a smaller, more nimble staff. But large or small, all accounting firms will need to develop new skills in mobile workforce management.
What the mobile accounting workforce needs to succeed
As firms pivoted to remote work during the pandemic, they needed to transform processes and technology into a work-from-anywhere model. Many sought to improve their technology through cloud-based tax preparation solutions. In our annual survey of accounting firms, nearly 40% of all firms described themselves as ‘innovators’ or ‘early adopters’ of technology—up from only 29% of firms that identified that way prior to the pandemic.3
To succeed in the new normal, staff must be able to access the client data and software programs needed to manage their day-to-day activities from anywhere. The technology providing a foundation for their work needed to be just as accessible, reliable and secure from home as it was in the office. Further, the employee experience needed to be similar, and just as productive, whether staff was together at the office or working remotely.
Going forward, firms will need to fills in any remaining gaps in their cloud tax preparation workflows. Firm managers must make strategic decisions to optimize internal processes and leverage greater value from cloud technology. Here are the top five technologies firms surveyed last year intended to add to their tax workflow, along with the corresponding solution in the CCH Axcess™ cloud tax preparation platform:4
- E-Signature solution (CCH® eSign)
- Client portal (CCH Axcess™ Portal)
- Tax return automation tools (CCH Axcess™ Tax)
- Document management solution (CCH Axcess™ Document)
- Document scanning solution (CCH® ProSystem fx® Scan and AutoFlow Technology)
Winning the war for accounting talent by offering flexibility
No longer confined by the geography of the physical office, firms will have the opportunity to hire new staff wherever they want. That’s a very good thing, because there’s fierce competition for top talent during the current era of historic low unemployment.
In survey after survey, workers have revealed their demand for more flexibility in terms of both work schedule and work location. Cloud technology helps firms offer both anytime and anywhere access to work. With the right tools in place, all that remains is for partners and managers to set the parameters of what’s expected from staff.
Tax preparation in the cloud benefits staff engagement
Beyond flexibility, cloud tax preparation helps firms create a more modern and engaging employee experience. First, a common client database provides a single source of truth across the firm. Second, centralized data also streamlines processes and bridges the gap between the tax team and other departments. Third, real-time data sharing and collaboration tools help employees work together just as effectively (or even better) than they did in the office. Fourth, a more streamlined tax process increases employee engagement by reducing mundane data entry work and helping staff concentrate on more satisfying work. Finally, increased visibility into project status and staff workloads makes managers more effective, without micro-managing the employees.
- EY, “75% of US C-suite and business leaders anticipate not returning to the traditional office,” October 25, 2021.
- CNBC, “PwC announces nearly 40,000 U.S. employees can work remote from anywhere in the country,” Jennifer Liu, October 1, 2021.
- Wolters Kluwer Tax & Accounting Surveys, 2019 - 2021
- Wolters Kluwer Tax & Accounting Survey, 2021