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Flexible Working In Accountancy

Flexible Working in Accountancy

As 2024 gathers pace, I wanted to help my network get a better handle on people's preferences regarding working patterns and flexible working. So, I posted a poll on LinkedIn last week to get a true reflection of the market now that we are back to normal after the festive period, and the results have been fascinating to dive into.

To add a bit of context, I also asked several respondents a follow-up question on the reason for their choice, and I took ten opinions from each category. Now, I'm no statistician, and pouring over this data has edged me out of my comfort zone. However, there were 402 votes, and over 80% of respondents were Qualified Accountants, Senior Economists and from other related professional fields.

The findings from this poll are very focused on the accountancy market and don't represent every field. Accounting Practice, Financial Services and Advisory firms comprised around 10% of the sample size collectively, and approximately 30% were from the charitable and not-for-profit sector, which means that 60% of responses were split across areas including manufacturing, FMCG, energy and many others.

The findings are aligned with many other sectors, indicating that 9% of people preferred to be office-based, 32% suggested they wanted to be completely remote and 59% of respondents were keen on the best of both worlds.

Interestingly, however, when you break down the demographics from the survey, there was undoubtedly a gender split across the categories, and I have tried to give some insight.

Preference for Office-Based Working Pattern:

  • Male 78%
  • Female 22%
  • Senior level 54%
89% of responders operate in sectors traditionally described as being in a "tangible" market, i.e., a product you can hold, see, smell, or experience in some physical way, with everyone else being from a service sector style role.

Preference for Home-Based Working Pattern:

  • Male 49%
  • Female 51%
  • Senior level 49%
43% of responders are operating in "tangible" sectors, and the rest operate in an industry you could describe as a service sector.

Preference for Hybrid Working

  • Male 55%
  • Female 45%
  • Senior level 65%

74% of responders operate in "tangible" sectors, and the rest operate in an industry you could describe as a service sector.

The results are interesting: people who prefer office-based work are overwhelmingly male; if the preference is for home-working, this is very delicately balanced, and people who like hybrid work are again males.

Total Responses

  • Male 56%
  • Female 44%
  • Senior level 42%
So, from what I can see, the differences between genders are more pronounced amongst those who prefer to be office-based, and it appears that people operating in a more senior-level role prefer hybrid working not just in terms of sheer numbers but also as a percentage of those responders. When I take senior leaders/managers alone, only 8% want to be completely office-based, 26% want to be remote, and 66% want the best of both worlds.

Perhaps the most interesting result here is not that most people want hybrid, this has been a known quantity since 2020 but that of those that remain, remote working is preferable. Changed days indeed! 

In 1999, at Invergordon Academy, I did a Computer Science Higher, and our teacher was convinced that by 2020, we'd be a cashless society and working from home would be the norm.
Here we are in 2024, not quite cashless, but it is in the post, and more people are working from home than at any point in history. Perhaps virtual worlds such as the Meta-verse are the final frontier for home-working; however, people still value connection, teamwork and socialising with colleagues, which is evident from the data and the answers to the follow-up questions.

Why some people prefer office-based

People who prefer office-based roles have said so for various reasons; one is team spontaneity. While calls via Teams can be useful, you can miss the opportunity to gain insight and ideas from overhearing things, witnessing things and naturally accumulating more knowledge.

Mental health was also highlighted

Leaving the house and travelling to a place of work can make it easier to separate the two parts of your life, helping to avoid the lines between the two becoming blurred. Equally, connection and communication with others have known psychological and physical health benefits.


There is also an argument for time-saving. Consider that if you have a 30-minute Teams call booked in your diary, you feel duty-bound to fill those 30 minutes; perhaps a 10-minute chat face-to-face in an office setting saves those 20 minutes for other things.

Supporting Junior Staff

But the overwhelmingly most common reason was to benefit more junior staff. Inexperienced but highly motivated people need training, nurturing and development. This is very difficult to replicate online.

Career development

Some people highlighted that they would not be noticed or considered for promotion if their efforts and energy were unseen. By being in the office, being ever-present and always available, they are better placed to enjoy promotion and to have their efforts routinely praised.

Flexible working in Accountancy

Why DO so many people want to be completely remote?

Focused on outputs.

By eliminating a commute, distractions and noise, most responders highlighted sheer output as the main benefit. They feel happier when doing things, achieving outcomes, and delivering. Almost all respondents highlighted this as part of their reasoning.

Work/life balance was a key consideration.

Working 8 am-6 pm completely uninterrupted was a strong factor. Still, people also take time to walk their dogs; there is no harm in putting a load of washing on and generally getting up and doing something productive, meaning that there is no frantic hour spent in the evening tidying up. Again, it comes down to people's desire to achieve.

Being a working parent 

It is hard to do everything, and by introducing commute, "dead time", talking about the latest episode of The Traitors or other distractions, people feel they are delivering neither part of their world well. Which in turn leads to a lack of fulfilment.

Lack of interest in socialising 

Some people highlighted that whilst they enjoy the company of other people, they are more interested in doing their job, doing it well and contributing to the success of their company that way.

Why IS hybrid working so universally popular?

I use the word universal as there were no apparent preferences based on gender, seniority, working parents, non-parents, or cross-industry. It appears we love to have our cake and eat it.


When working from home, you can be output-focused on those WFH days. Drop the kids at school, shut the blinds, a two-litre cafetiere for one and steam on with things. This theme around getting on and achieving things was prevalent amongst the majority.


Coming into the office, sure, your productivity drops by 50%, but you learn more about your colleagues, get updates on a project, and meet the people with whom you are working towards common goals. The time spent talking about the episode of The Traitors has another word: bonding.

Well-being and mental health 

When you are in the office, you are having a shared experience with others; you can share the pain with others and celebrate the successes together. You can do it all.

A hybrid approach means you can be the best parent you can be, the best worker you can be, and have an active social life with a sense of purpose and direction. The modern world offers opportunities for these people to feel as though they can do everything and have no regrets.

Confession Time

I am unquestionably a fan of hybrid working; it has opened up possibilities I didn't have before: one moment helping a candidate make a potentially career-changing decision, then putting the dinner on to spend time with the children. It has been a game changer for me not to feel like I am missing out on anything.

But like so many people who participated in this survey, my primary focus is on doing my best at work, being a parent, and being the best version of myself for my wife, family, and friends. And this takes on many forms. There is no right or wrong answer; people prioritise a myriad of views and things.


And so, we have a very challenging landscape when it comes to hiring. Should we have blanket company policies and everyone conforms to the same principles, or do we look at information like this and let employees do what is right for them?

It is not an easy question to answer or a subject to tackle, but whatever the decision, there is someone out there for you. If you want them based in the office, they are harder to find, but they are out there, and we can find them. If you want someone to work remotely, we can find someone for that, too.

If you have a hybrid policy, your chances of success in hiring are higher but just as challenging for other reasons. Either way, talk to the experts, and we can help you to solve the problem.

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