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February 2, 2023

Accountants Will Not Be Motivated to Get Back to the Office

an empty office lobby and elevator

Someone sent us this r/accounting thread on returning to the office the other day and wanted to make sure we call out one comment in particular. You’ll see why in a second. The question of what would motivate you to go back to the office has been asked before, in a multitude of ways, and each time the answer(s) are along a predictable spectrum ranging from “nothing, I’m not going back” to “let’s see the partners return to office first.” This thread is no different, it just contains a little bonus Kool-aid chugging.

The thread:

694 comments. Do you think partners who scan Reddit to see how the serfs are feeling will read all of them? I’ll save them some time: your people do not want to go back. The ones who do — exhausted parents who need a break, for one — are already doing so. The ones who are not are not some client needing to be won over, they have made their decision.

Well if partners speed read past most of the comments they’ll be interested in this one for sure. Here we have OP, a manager with an extremely high Blood Kool-aid Concentration of 0.30%, which can be fatal and requires immediate medical attention.

screenshot of a Reddit thread on returning to office

You know what makes people quit their jobs? Their jobs. Being shoved back into carpet-lined cubicles and forced to interact with people you never really liked anyway when you could be doing the same thing in your comfiest sweats from the comfort of home is not going to get people to stay. As evidenced by those 694 comments and nearly three years of people saying “I will quit if I ever have to go back to the office,” the opposite will happen.

So what do you think? Does remote work make you think this is just work for a paycheck (which it literally is so what’s the issue)? Would being in the office more foster that sense of community and belonging that you crave so much in your life and can’t get from people you get a say in choosing such as friends and your spouse? Do you miss being crammed in a closet at the client site with your colleagues, inhaling the human fumes?

Has OP tried pizza for the team? I heard that works.

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12 Comments

  1. View from the UK. It is the beginning of the end for working at home. The recession is starting to bite and there’s no room for slackers or passengers.

    1. Disagree with this. Higher ups want that to be the case but if any mandated return to work policies come in staff will leave

    2. Just because someone works remotely doesn’t mean they’re slacking. If anything, the people in the office standing around the coffee maker all day are the ones slacking just so they can get some butt kissing done.

  2. Given the crunch for talent, i would imagine mandates for in-person work are just not going to happen. There are just too many people that are averse to having to commute (potentially 2+ hours round trip if you live in a suburb to a major city) and sit in an office to complete the same work that could have been done remotely. That being said, as a senior manager, i would say working fully remote has made it very difficult to get to know the people you’re working with and i do think it leads to people being more likely to leave earlier in their career than they would have before because the only relationship they have is with their laptop. To me, the issue is not so much peoples’ unwillingness to go to the office, it’s that we’re not going to our client’s offices anymore because they just don’t see the need for us to be there (at least in my industry), so the staff are not seeing the things we saw early in our careers like interacting with the clients on a personal level, sitting in on meetings between the partners and CFO/Controllers to hear them discuss business issues to get a sense of the big picture of what we’re doing and what their job would look like if they stick around for manager/partner. It’s basically just endless crunching spreadsheets with a weekly 30 minute zoom meeting being your only real interaction with the client and then you roll off, rinse and repeat. No one ever mistook auditing as an exciting profession, but this takes it to a whole new level of misery. I don’t see a way to fix this other than a significant increase in compensation (I won’t hold my breath); i think the profession is going to continue to have big problems attracting/retaining talent in the years ahead.

    1. This is a good and interesting comment, and although I don’t disagree with all the points, I think they are all valid and well reasoned. The author eludes to a key point at the beginning. Let’s see what happens when there’s a big recession and a shortage of talent. The employees are in the driver’s seat right now due to talent shortages. But if that were to change, management would order the staff back into the office in a second. And most of the staff would probably go, although not happily. Most of the youngsters in the accounting profession right now have not lived through a recession. I have, and it sucks. Management gets to wear the pants in that situation, and they know it.

      As for the getting to know each other comment, that is true. There is a lot less socializing than there was before, and meetings are generally about work. I’m not sure that’s a bad thing per se. I go to work to work, not to make friends. I’d say that other people are more touchy-feely that me, but as I noted in another comment on this post, the kids these days hate social interaction. So I somehow suspect the problem with staff leaving isn’t that they wish they had a better relationship with their boss that they never see in person.

      If you’re telling me that turnover is high in public accounting, my response would be “It’s always been high”. That’s the business model. I don’t see the problem.

  3. The more hours partners can get you to work on your fixed salary, the more money they make. Folks have complained about hours for years, but the record keeps playing….

  4. EY Fishbowl yesterday was noting that it’s become impossible to find a desk in the New York office if you wait until the last minute because it’s at capacity

  5. Article fails to mention anything about training and development of people. How is a new staff supposed to effectively learn from their home office on Teams?

      1. I will never forget that day. A bunch of us from the office went out to lunch, knowing that we probably wouldn’t see each other again for a while. I had a Corona beer with my lunch. While we were at lunch we watched CNN on TV report that Disneyland was closing for an undetermined amount of time and the NCAA Tournament was cancelled.

        Who know that almost three years later, we’d all still be working from home.

  6. Remote work is perfect for the kids these days. They don’t like human interaction. They don’t want human interaction. Getting a young auditor to agree to just do a phone call with me (the client) rather than exchanging emails is like pulling teeth. There’s zero chance I could get them to actually meet me in person.

    The kids these days have no social skills. They don’t know how to have a conversation with another human being. Having them come into the office for 9 or 10 hours strait would be so emotionally draining to them. I’m not surprised that most of them would quit their job if forced into the office.

    It’s not the job, as our dear Adrienne suggests. It’s the people people doing the job. If you try to force a person with no social skills whatsoever into a situation where they need to socialize, it ain’t gonna work.

    I don’t know the solution to this problem. For now, I guess you just let them work from home because you’ve gotta get the job done somehow.

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