April 18, 2021

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More accounting firms embrace office space reduction: AICPA survey

2 min read

The rise in remote work since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic has a growing number of accounting businesses reconsidering their physical office spaces, according to data from the 2021 Q1 AICPA Economic Outlook Survey.

The survey was conducted Feb. 2-24, 2021, and included 693 responses from CPAs and accountants who hold leadership positions within their organizations.

Seventy-two percent of those polled said their organizations had no plans to reduce their current office space over the next year, down five percentage points from Q3 2020, when the question was first asked. More notable, though, was that 9 percent of professionals — up from 5 percent in Q3 2020 — said they planned to reduce their office space by approximately 10 to 24 percent over the next year.

In all, approximately 21 percent of polled executives anticipate some sort of reduction in their office space over the next year, compared to 18 percent in the third quarter last year.

“As the recovery progresses and we move towards the next-normal, more and more people will return to their traditional places of work,” said Ash Noah, vice president and managing director of management accounting learning, education and development at the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants, in a statement. “But this doesn’t change the fundamental shifts we’re seeing toward more virtual and remote operations, which have been greatly accelerated during the past year. Some functions can’t be performed effectively remotely, of course, and we expect to see more office sharing, ‘hoteling’ of office space and more decentralized operations in general. The nature of office space and how it is utilized will continue to evolve towards a more flexible and hybrid operating model.”

The vast majority of those polled say their businesses will continue to utilize a mix of remote and onsite work for their staff. Eight percent of those polled added that their organizations are now all-virtual operations — a figure that has doubled since pre-pandemic levels.

Most business executives added that expect their organizations to return to pre-pandemic levels of operation within the year, if not already. Twenty-seven percent, though, estimated that it would take a year or more to reach these levels.

For the full report, head to the AICPA’s site here.