Does your firm hire remote workers? 

Hiring remote staff plays a critical role in addressing your firm’s workload. Countless accountants are demanding more flexibility and want to work remotely, and you need to accommodate them because it’s difficult to fill non-entry-level accounting positions. Allowing your accountants to work remotely will both suit their needs and benefit your firm. 

Gusto, along with our partners at CPA Academy, held a helpful webinar all about remote work and how it can help your firm — you can watch the full webinar here

In the webinar, CEO of Padgett Business Services and Co-Founder of Accountingfly Jeff Phillips explains why your firm needs to hire remote accountants. You can also learn the eight steps for effectively managing your remote workers by checking out Part Two of this webinar series. 

After reading this article, you’ll know why remote work is here to stay, all about the knowledge economy workforce, and why your firm needs to embrace remote work. Let’s get started.

Remote workers are here to stay 

Accounting firms often have difficulty hiring experienced accountants. They have an easier time filling in lower-level positions but difficulty hiring mid- and upper-level employees:

“If you work inside an accounting firm, you have struggled to hire people outside of the college level. Most accounting firms I know … do pretty good with interns, pretty good with entry-level, and then it gets tough [with] seniors [and] managers on up. It isn’t going away, and one of the ways that you can solve that problem is by just saying ‘yes’ to hiring remote U.S. based telecommuters that are fully capable of doing whatever job you have.”

– Jeff Phillips

Although filling management and senior-level positions is challenging, you can find qualified candidates by hiring remotely. The number of remote workers greatly increased since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, but it was already increasing before the pandemic. Many accountants who began working remotely in 2020 will remain remote after the pandemic is under control:

“[R]emote work in accounting really isn’t going to go anywhere, and part of the reason why is because we’re in a employees’ market, and it’s not going anywhere.”

– Jeff Phillips

Skilled accountants can demand more of their employers because there are more open jobs than there are accountants. Accountants will continue wanting to work remotely, and they’re going to insist on more work flexibility: 

“It’s my personal opinion that the A-players out there, […] they are going to demand that they have flexible work arrangements and go seek out the employers that do if you don’t offer them when we get back to normal. The downside is you’re going to lose good people. The upside is if you embrace it, if you embrace this idea of flex work and remote work, you can keep your people.”

– Jeff Phillips

It will be crucial for your firm to embrace remote work and recognize that it will play a key role in the future of accounting. 

Remote Work

The knowledge economy workforce

Working with remote staff is essential for your firm because it’s challenging to fill positions with qualified accountants, and this difficulty will only increase over the course of the next decade: 

“Globally, within the next nine years, we’re going to have … 50 million more knowledge [economy] jobs … than we will have people to fill them. So pandemic or no, recession or no, this is what’s happening, and that’s creating pressure on the employers to fill jobs. It’s already hard to fill jobs, but what we know is that … the macro trends are [telling] us that it’s only going to get harder.”

– Jeff Phillips

The number of knowledge economy jobs is increasing rapidly, and there aren’t enough knowledge economy workers to address the rising workload. In addition to the proliferation of knowledge economy jobs, knowledge economy workers have a low unemployment rate and high turnover rate: 

“We were at 1.5% to 1.8% unemployment for accountants, bookkeepers, and auditors [in 2019]. … Everyone was employed, … so when you want to build your team … you’re going to have to get really creative and change something in order to hire anyone. … At the same time, New York State Society of CPAs and Mark Rosenberg are telling us that firms with $20 million in revenue and below have staff turnover of 25%.”

– Jeff Phillips

The high turnover rate of accountants combined with their low unemployment rate means that it will be critical to offer flexibility and remote work to retain and hire new employees. If you need to replace on average 25% of your staff yearly, or your firm is expanding, you will need to be able to hire quickly and effectively..

Currently, the largest demographic of workers in the labor force are Millennials, and Millennials require flexibility and remote work for their careers: 

“The race for talent is over, and the talent has won. [Millennials] want to have the flexibility to work when and where they want, within reason, but more so than it was like for you if you’re a Gen Xer like me or anyone else. So what’s driving the demand is that Millennials are a predominantly dual-income families. ”

– Jeff Phillips

Millennial households need flexibility and remote work because both partners work. Jeff cited a conversation that he had with a successful accounting manager in Chicago. She described how working remotely meant that she didn’t have to choose between having a career and being a parent. She also stated that she would choose to be with her family over her accounting career if she had to choose between the two. This indicates that you need to address accountants’ needs to keep them at your firm. If you can’t provide flexibility and remote work, they might leave your firm and find the firm that best serves themselves and their family’s needs. 

Bottom line: You need to allow your accountants flexibility and to work remotely. Otherwise, they’ll find a different firm that will address their needs. 

Woman standing at Island table while working on her laptop while talking on her cell phone

Embrace remote work

Your firm must embrace remote work rather than avoid it. The number of remote workers will continue to grow, and your firm can benefit from hiring them: 

“If you flip your mindset and embrace remote work, you will get fantastic talent to build your team, and that makes your life a lot easier. That’s my case. It’s not going anywhere, but here’s the flip side: it’s also incredibly productive for you.”

– Jeff Phillips

Hiring remote workers will lead to finding qualified candidates faster, which is important because you won’t overwork your current employees. Overworking employees can contribute to a firm’s lack of growth and high turnover. When you address your firm’s workload by hiring remote employees, your firm will have a lighter workload, grow faster, and have better retention.

Another key benefit to hiring remote workers is that you’ll gain access to freelancers that can further address your firm’s heavy workload: 

“The other side of this that you should know about is that the whole freelance economy, the gig economy, is available to you, and if you don’t have a freelance economy plan, you are missing out. The labor market of freelance workers is growing nearly four times as fast as the traditional labor market.”

– Jeff Phillips

The number of freelance accountants is increasing rapidly, so it’s crucial that you hire freelancers to gain access to a much larger workforce. Another benefit of hiring freelancers is you can take on heavy workloads without overworking your employees. You may not always want to hire a full-time employee, but you can hire freelancers during busy seasons: 

“[Freelancers are] getting the work done, and your team will thank you for it. You still are very profitable, your team doesn’t quit at the end of tax season because they’re not burned out, and you got the work done.”

– Jeff Phillips

When you hire remote freelancers, you can take on tax season without overworking your staff. This will reduce your turnover rate, and you can expand your firm without hiring more full-time employees. 

Learn more about the benefits of remote work

Embracing remote work is vital for the future of your firm. An increasing number of accountants will demand flexibility and remote work, and you can’t afford to reject remote accountants because the number of accounting jobs is increasing exponentially. Start hiring remote employees and freelancers so that you can take on your firm’s workload and expand

If you want to learn more about why you should hire remote workers and how to manage them effectively, check out Part Two of our webinar series. You can also watch the full webinar here

If you need additional help with hiring and managing remote staff, we encourage you to check out Gusto’s People Advisory services. We offer your firm invaluable people-based services, including payroll, HR, health insurance, and 401(k)s. Gusto’s People Advisory offers exceptional small business tools and services that will help you serve your clients’ needs effectively and grow your firm. 

Gusto Editors Gusto Editors, contributing authors on Gusto, provide actionable tips and expert advice on HR and payroll for successful business management.
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