Benefits of Creating a Better Work Environment

There has been a lot in the news recently about benefits being provided by CPA firms. Most of these claim to help with recruiting and retention. One company is now offering paid maternity leave and increased personal time off — including unlimited vacation for managers and principals — based on years of service at the firm. One national firm announced the introduction of a “Dress for Your Day” pilot program intended to give team members choices of what they can wear to work based largely on where and with whom they will be working. Another firm was recently profiled in its local paper talking about its work environment that included stand-up desks and a meditation room.

While I firmly believe these are attractive benefits from a recruiting perspective and some (like the paid maternity leave) will help with retention, some of these are just bells and whistles. In my experience, the bells and whistles matter only if you already have an engaged staff. No employee has left a firm because of not having a jeans policy or lack of stand-up desks.

However, forging a more friendly work environment does help with productivity. Here are some of the benefits we actually believe could have an impact on productivity and retention and are affordable for most firms.

Flexible working hours.

Most staff want more control over the hours they work. It’s not that they want to work less. Consider offering flex days at any point during the week which will give them options for when they want to work on the weekends during tax season. Also, don’t make people work late until they have to. Focus on performance and demand.

Challenge your employees.

A key driver in employee engagement is challenging work.

Close the office the weekend after March 15 and the day after April 15.

Breaks in work will help everyone be more productive.

Control workload and flow.

As a partner (aka owner), you must set the expectations with clients and manage workflow.

Make your environment healthy.

Stand-up desks are actually not a bad idea. People are often more productive while standing and think better on their feet. Healthy snacks and encouraging quick breaks for a walk outside will also help with productivity.

Be kind to your employees.

While policies are important from an HR standpoint, sometimes you need to make exceptions to those policies. I distinctly remember the call I had to make to my then bosses when my father passed away unexpectedly. We had a clear three-day policy, but that would not have covered what I needed. My bosses told me to take whatever time I needed. They didn’t dock my vacation time or pay for being out longer and never made me feel guilty. The odd thing was, I found I worked even harder for them and stayed much longer in my role than I might have otherwise.

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