Industry Trends

The End of Face Time

Caleb Newquist Editor-at-Large, Gusto 
remote work

April 16, 2020

The Paycheck Protection Program has been exhausted, but it’s likely more funds will be approved soon. Gusto has partnered with lenders to help any small business apply for funds and get back on track. Your clients don’t need to be Gusto customers to get a 100% forgivable loan. Get started today.

WFH is normal now

Right now, a lot of people are asking questions like, “What will things be like after this?” In the accounting world, at least, I think everyone will finally realize that you don’t actually need to work in an office where your co-workers and bosses can see you at any given moment (aka “face time”).

You see, I’m old enough to remember when my physical presence in the office was the only acceptable evidence of my productivity. The thinking of the partners and managers being, “I see Caleb at work, so I know he’s working.” This logic applied to the opposite condition as well: “Huh, I don’t see Caleb at work. He must not be working.” If I wasn’t working, then I couldn’t possibly be getting things done.

When technology (i.e., portable computers, the internet, and wireless connectivity) made it possible to get things done from anywhere, it suddenly dawned on most people that being present in an office wasn’t necessary. At the very least, it was optional. The accounting profession wasn’t too hot on this idea. Again, the thinking being, “Well, sure, I can email Caleb at 10 p.m. demanding a status update on those review notes, but I still can’t see him at work, so he must not be working.”

Little by little, evidence began to emerge that proved this wrong. People didn’t need to be in an office to be productive; they were more productive working out of the office, in fact. Accounting came begrudgingly along. Imagine the Gartner Hype Curve, if you must. For remote work, accounting’s trough of disillusionment seemed longer than others.

Then came the coronavirus, and everyone had to get on board, more or less overnight:

For white-collar, salaried workers, coronavirus is, in a way, offering a natural experiment, by forcing companies to let people work from home, create their own schedules and spend more time with their families. It could convince companies that constant face time is unnecessary, said the sociologists Erin L. Kelly and Phyllis Moen, who this year published “Overload: How Good Jobs Went Bad and What We Can Do About It.”

“Part of the reason companies haven’t really changed is it’s a shift in mind-set to not focus on hours and being instantly responsive to a text at 9 p.m.,” Ms. Kelly said. “It’s a shift to working on the assumption that employees should decide when, where and how they do their work.”

We’ll see how this plays out. Much like the hope that forced socialization with co-workers would go away only to see a slew of virtual happy hours and water cooler sessions come out of the woodwork, “face time” may just morph into “Zoom time,” which still has some of the same problems and many of its own unique pitfalls.

Still. As someone who’s bemoaned face time in accounting for quite a while, I’m pleased that we’ve finally gotten to a place where everyone has little choice but to accept that it is irrelevant to productivity. Would’ve been nice if it hadn’t taken a global pandemic to get us here, though.

COVID news you can use

This section features programs, assistance, and other coronavirus-related information from the past week. It is not meant to be a comprehensive list, so if you see something that we should include here, let us know, or check out our regularly updated relief resources post.

  • Yelp is waiving its advertising fees and providing other relief for restaurant and nightlife businesses.
  • Goldman Sachs and other partners are providing $50 million in loans for small businesses in Texas.
  • The City of Tampa, Fla. has established a relief program that will provide direct payments to eligible small businesses of $4,000 for rent or mortgage and up to $1,000 for utilities.
  • The Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce has started a Mainstreet Preservation Fund for minority-owned businesses in Utah. It will award grants up to $5,000 to employers with fewer than 50 employees.

Fresh from Gusto

  • Gusto Partners: As part of the CARES Act, your clients can defer the employer portion of their Social Security taxes for the rest of 2020. Learn more and turn on tax deferrals in the COVID-19 tab of your Gusto account
  • New York Times writer and small business owner Steve Friess has five ways small businesses are coping with the COVID-19 crisis.
  • My colleague Will Lopez shares his three top apps for running your practice from home.

Web learnin’

Read with Gusto

Want more On the Margins? Check out past editions in the archive.

Updated: January 22, 2021

Caleb Newquist
Caleb Newquist Caleb is Editor-at-Large at Gusto. In 2009, he became the founding editor of Going Concern, the one-of-a-kind voice on the accounting profession, serving in the role for 9 years. Prior to Going Concern, Caleb worked as a CPA for nearly 6 years in New York and Denver. He lives in Denver with his wife, two daughters, and two cats.

Comments

*Required fields

Your email address will not be published.

Back to top