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How to Embrace the Shift in Office Culture

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As 2021 draws to a close, accountants and finance professionals have an opportunity to reflect on what they want to carry over into the new year. In this article, bookkeeping expert Kristen Keats explains why now is the perfect time to prioritize joy, embrace change and realign your values to improve your firm's culture

Dec 16th 2021
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The end of the year is an important time to reflect. As we gather for holidays and wait for the ball to drop, there is an exciting sense of optimism for what’s next. We come together to celebrate what worked in the last 12 months, as well as acknowledge what we want to leave behind from the previous year. 

As I reflect on the accounting industry in 2021, I am celebrating the change of the “traditional” office. This socially distant working world is transforming not only our physical work environments, but also our workplace cultures. The way we work now has shifted, and we need to continue to evolve into even better businesses.

We had to adapt for the COVID-19 pandemic, and now we should keep those changes that worked while rejecting those that didn’t. Saying the same makes businesses complacent. If a business founder keeps in mind why they started the business and what their customers and clients love about them, they can find new and different ways to deliver their products and services in a changing world. I believe in being flexible and always thinking outside the box. 

In the new year, I will celebrate a more joyful office culture, flexible schedules, borderless partnerships and being mission-driven. These values will make your employees happier and make your company more successful. 

From unfulfilled to joyful. Joy is often deprioritized in the accounting profession, but I believe bookkeepers should be a friendly, trusted advisor who knows their clients, their clients’ business and their clients’ community. Accounting should be about more than making sure the numbers balance; it should be the surety that a trusted advisor has a client’s best interest in mind and will support them through every tough decision and professional conundrum. This is achieved through enjoying the work. When you truly find happiness in the daily tasks, you’ll never “work” another day again. 

Your office’s culture in 2022 should encourage your team to step into what makes them happy and whole. For us, that means getting rid of billing by the hour. Our joy in accounting comes from bringing value and advisory services to our clients. Instead of crunching numbers once a year, we meet with clients regularly to brainstorm goals and plot out a plan to get there.

We instill this joy in our remote office culture as well. Through Zoom happy hours and a Slack channel of advisor Q&A, we foster a work culture that embodies joy, and we hope the industry will follow our lead in the new year.

From 9-to-5 to flexible schedules. Many companies trust their teams to get their work done when they can give their best. The last 18 months have completely shifted our conception of working from home. Employees embraced the unexpected and juggled the responsibilities of being working parents, caregivers, new pet owners and so on. Without a commute, many colleagues became accustomed to morning yoga or logging on early to get a few emails out before logging off again. Mornings without a commute may be less stressful for employees. Flexibility that allows your team to manage their work/life balance enables them to be at their best when they are “on” the clock.

This can also help to prevent burnout. A quick Peloton ride during a canceled meeting, a long lunch or a midnight writing session may revive a colleague who had a hard day. This changing office culture gives employees the space to balance their workload and take care of their mental health. Eschewing a traditional 9-to-5 schedule allows companies to attract and keep the best talent, regardless of their work-from-home policies.

From always-on to strategic, borderless partnerships. COVID-19 put a spotlight on antiquated processes that needed to change, and the accounting profession has embraced this by enhancing cloud-based solutions. Although the cloud is nothing new, it remains an underutilized secret weapon for accountants, as it is a critical component in building a better experience for accountants and their clients. Furthermore, untapped opportunities exist for accounting firms and potential partners across the globe. These strategic partnerships, such as a remote offshore team, can take care of the backend work so your domestic colleagues have more time with clients and family. Debits and credits are the same no matter where you are, so I predict the office culture of 2022 will capitalize on this. 

Rediscovering what’s most important. Employees are seeking out companies that align with their core values. An Imperative study of LinkedIn employees found that purpose-oriented members of their team are 54 percent more likely to plan to stay at the company for five or more years. Aligning with like-minded colleagues helps create a better experience for the company and its employees. For me, this means bringing joy to accounting, and having integrity, building trust and creating a community bring joy. At my firm, we use this as our guiding principle every day as we make decisions and grow the company.

Our office’s values may differ from yours, and that’s okay! Finding joy in your work is about uncovering what’s important to you. 

I hope the shift in office culture is part of a larger movement. The accounting industry in particular should embrace change. The office, whether it’s remote or brick-and-mortar, will be more accommodating to employees in all situations and with different experience levels when it’s more joyful, flexible, supportive and mission-driven. Here’s to rediscovering the work and office culture that you love in the new year!

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