- Eighty-two percent of business executives say their companies will not be reducing office space in the coming year
- Some 22 percent of firms say they plan primarily remote operations over next 12 months
- Safety of customers and employees remains greatest pandemic-related business concern
Companies are planning on retaining remote work options to a greater degree than they did pre-pandemic once workplace restrictions ease, the third-quarter AICPA Economic Outlook Survey found. The survey polls chief executive officers, chief financial officers, controllers and other certified public accountants in U.S. companies who hold executive and senior management accounting roles.
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3Q20 AICPA Economic Outlook Survey (Graphic: Business Wire)
Topline results of the survey were released Sept. 3 but business executives were also asked supplemental questions about their workplace plans for the next 12 months. Half said they plan to return principally or entirely to traditional onsite operations, provided restrictions are eased or not in place. (Another 15 percent said remote work was never an option for them). Some 22 percent, however, said their company’s operations would be primarily remote, with an additional nine percent saying they planned to be completely virtual. In comparison, only four percent of companies said they operated as all-virtual concerns before the pandemic.
So far, the shift to remote work hasn’t led to widespread plans for a reduction in office space, confirming that – while businesses will leverage the flexibility that remote working enables – physical office and collaboration workspace remains an essential part of the future-of-work landscape. More than three-quarters of business executives (77 percent) said they expected no change to their brick-and-mortar office footprint over the next 12 months. Some 18 percent said they expected some consolidation, with five percent saying they planned to give up 50 percent or more of their space. Five percent said their companies plan to increase space.
"Many companies were forced abruptly into remote work situations by the pandemic and performed surprisingly well," said Ash Noah, CPA, CGMA, managing director of CGMA learning, education and development for the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants. "The crisis accelerated the virtual teams and remote trends already underway. We will see businesses being more flexible in their approach and adopting a hybrid operating model that will become more commonplace over the next few years."
The greatest pandemic-related concerns that business executives cited for the next 12 months are safety of employees and customers (33 percent), uncertainty over stay-at-home restrictions (29 percent) and customer demand/ability to pay (22 percent), the survey found. Only two percent listed liability concerns as their greatest worry.
To address safety, most companies plan to mandate masks in the workplace (74 percent), provide socially distanced workspaces (71 percent), provide personal protection equipment (64 percent) and screen workers (52 percent). (NOTE: See attached chart for full list)
"Other" responses for this question included:
- Split our employees into pods that do not physically interact
- Significant signage to promote safety and distancing
- Restricting access to outside vendors/customers to essential interactions
- Discontinued vending services/coffee and water fountains
- Implement paperless transactions
- More virtual sales tools
- Additional cleaning and sanitation
The third-quarter AICPA Business and Industry Economic Outlook Survey was conducted from July 18 to August 28 and included 1,067 qualified responses from CPAs who hold leadership positions, such as chief financial officer or controller, in their companies. The overall margin of error is less than 3 percentage points. A copy of the report can be found on aicpa.org.
About the American Institute of CPAs
The American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) is the world’s largest member association representing the CPA profession, with more than 431,000 members in the United States and worldwide, and a history of serving the public interest since 1887. AICPA members represent many areas of practice, including business and industry, public practice, government, education and consulting. The AICPA sets ethical standards for its members and U.S. auditing standards for private companies, nonprofit organizations, and federal, state and local governments. It develops and grades the Uniform CPA Examination, offers specialized credentials, builds the pipeline of future talent and drives professional competency development to advance the vitality, relevance and quality of the profession.
About the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants
The Association of International Certified Professional Accountants (the Association) is the most influential body of professional accountants, combining the strengths of the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) and The Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA) to power trust, opportunity and prosperity for people, businesses and economies worldwide. It represents 650,000 members and students across 179 countries and territories in public and management accounting, and advocates for the public interest and business sustainability on current and emerging issues. With broad reach, rigor and resources, the Association advances the reputation, employability and quality of CPAs, CGMAs and accounting and finance professionals globally.