Three accountants share their experience being back at the office. Find out how they are adjusting and exploring the benefits.
After two-plus years of working from home, many accountants have gone back to the office part-time. We spoke with three CPAs about their hybrid work experience to better understand the life of a CPA in these changing times. Sharing their stories are Sierra Lehmann, senior accountant at KPMG in Edmonton, Desmond Mak, audit manager at Davidson and Company in Vancouver, and Lauren Becker, director, professional development at Crowe Soberman LLP in Toronto.
From left to right: Desmond Mak, Sierra Lehmann, and Lauren Becker. Photo credit: CPA Canada
What has your work schedule been like recently?
Sierra Lehmann (SL): I’ve been working from home, the office and the client site since February 2022. It depends on the week and the type of work. I recently worked from the client’s site for the whole week, but mostly it’s a couple of days from home and a few days from the office.
Desmond Mak (DM): Since July 2021, I’ve been in the office anywhere from two to four times a week. My schedule depends on the staff I work with to make sure I’m available to them so they can ask me questions and work together.
Lauren Becker (LB): I am mainly remote but, as of May 2022, I started to go into the office for some meetings, events or when a large group of people are in. We encourage staff to go into the office for on-the-job training and mentoring, and to increase collaboration. At the same time, we recognize that working some days at home provides flexibility, autonomy and independence.
How did you feel about going back to the office?
SL: I was excited, I missed that in-person connection. I find it more effective to coach in person. You can get quick answers and communicate a lot more effectively when you’re beside someone. It’s also been really nice to see coworkers again and have those chats by the coffee machine.
DM: I like going into the office. In public practice, there are so many new people joining the firm. It’s easier to build relationships in-person, rather than on Teams. Obviously, work from home can have its perks, like not having to commute and having more flexibility. I’m also able to spend more time with my family and eat healthier at home with access to my kitchen and fresh foods.
LB: Everyone was a bit apprehensive, myself included. We have all become comfortable at home in our routines. For me that means being able to do drop off and pick up my kids for school/camp at “regular” times and getting dinner ready. I used to leave my house at the crack of dawn with my children, ushering them out of the house to before care so I could miss traffic and start work as early as possible. My outlook has changed and, going forward, I do what’s right for my family. I am fully committed to them and my job. It is possible to do both; I always find a way to make it work.
CPA Canada: How do you shift your mindset between WFH and the office?
SL: Working from home is more of an individual experience, whereas the office is more collaborative. I work from home if I have things like virtual training or time pressure tasks. But, if I’m working with a team, it’s better to be in the office and in-person.
DM: The office is for when I try to schedule meetings, set training sessions with staff and catch up with them. When I’m at home, I try to concentrate on tasks that need a bit more focus.
LB: When I go to the office, I want to be part of our amazing culture, have face-to-face meetings and meet staff that started remote. At home, I dress in business casual type attire, I’m on video calls all the time and it also helps me get into the work mindset. I get as much done as I can during the day and finish up after my kids go to bed.
What do you do to stay organized between the two workspaces?
SL: My laptop comes back and forth, everything else is at the office, like a dual monitor setup and keyboard. At home, I have a desk, monitor and everything I used while working from home exclusively.
DM: I have a home office and also have my own space in the office, so the transition was pretty smooth. Everything’s remote, I just log in and, as long as I have an internet connection, I can access everything I need.
LB: I got rid of all my paper once the pandemic started. All of my notes, tasks and lists are on my laptop, so I can work anywhere.
What things did you have to organize to return to the office successfully?
SL: I live downtown in Edmonton, so I can walk or take public transportation. It takes some experimenting to determine a schedule that works best for your lifestyle and other commitments.
DM: Scheduling at home. My partner and I make sure we know each other’s schedules so we can plan for the week ahead to take care of our dog.
LB: My firm has docking stations set up at the office, so it was easy to return with only my laptop. Returning to the office for my first day back was comical. Finding parking was a disaster, my screens wouldn’t connect and I got no work done as people kept stopping by to chat!
Now that you’ve been working a hybrid schedule for some time, what are your thoughts on the approach?
SL: The hybrid model allows me to work from where I’m most effective based on the type of work and personal commitments I’m managing that week. It’s beneficial for my work-life balance: I can work from home if I have an appointment after work; but also work from the office when it’ll be more effective to be in-person with my team. It’s the best of both worlds.
DM: I believe that the hybrid model is going to be the future—if it isn’t already. I found that many of us prefer the hybrid model as it gives the staff the flexibility to balance their personal and work lives better.
LB: Hybrid work is one of the best outcomes of the pandemic—working parents are less stressed. Pre-pandemic, if a kid was sick or had to be picked up early, you were trying to find help, rushing to finish work, etc. It was unheard of to work with a child at home. Of course, it’s not ideal, but it’s doable. I worked from home with two young kids for months on end, so one to two days is nothing (not that I ever want to work remote with kids at home again!).
Michelle Singerman is a Toronto-based writer and digital content creator who began her career in local news reporting.
Originally published by CPA Canada's news site.