Much has been written about the future of work since the COVID-19 pandemic made the concept of “remote work” a household phrase in 2020. Would employees want to go back to their offices after months of working virtually from their homes? Would employers realize the potential for cost savings if they were able to reduce office space by allowing workers to work remotely on a full-time basis? Was there something in between?
And then another new phrase entered the lexicon – “hybrid” work, meaning employees work some days in offices and other days from home. By all indications, the hybrid model is happening now and will be with us for a long time, perhaps permanently.
Certainly, as the pandemic continues, we are still figuring things out as we go along. That may seem unsettling. But it’s actually a good thing. It reminds us that we need to be aware of each other’s different needs and tolerance for close contact. Some companies have brought all their workers back into their offices and are functioning as before the pandemic started. Others are still fully remote and prefer to interact remotely with customers and vendors through technology. Still others are going hybrid.
Here at HW&Co., we’re finding that clients with whom we have traditionally interacted through remote technology are comfortable continuing to do so and even welcome the convenience. For our tax clients, we have implemented SafeSend, a secure, encrypted system that allows us to share files electronically, and clients to sign them digitally. Meetings on tax matters are often held by videoconference these days, and clients appreciate not having to spend the time in traffic getting to our office and back.
On the audit side, we’re finding that clients appreciate the ability to meet in person again at their offices. Audit relationships have always involved face-to-face meetings and being onsite is often conducive to more in-depth discussions between our professionals and clients. That said, we are being flexible with clients and adapting to the workplace arrangements they need, whether they call for in-person meetings or virtual.
In the healthcare arena, where we work with many long-term care facilities, the need for all remote services was clear from the beginning of the pandemic. Our clients serve vulnerable populations, and it was essential that we use the technology resources available to us to deliver cost reports and other services from a distance. But in other industries such as manufacturing, real estate and construction, we find clients really want to get back to meeting in person at their offices.
As a society, we have long asked the question of whether technology is a blessing or a curse. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, we realized quickly what a blessing technology could be as it enabled us to keep delivering services to our clients and help them keep their businesses operating. For the technology-averse, the pandemic provided a strong incentive to embrace – and become expert at – technologies they never thought they would utilize.