20 Days to a Better Firm: Stop being annoying


All workplaces come with built-in annoyances; great workplaces find ways to minimize those. For the 2022 Best Firms to Work For, that often means looking at work practices and traditions that are common to the accounting profession that aren’t necessary in a 20th century practice — and that are often annoying to staff.

One of the most common things the top workplaces in the profession are dispensing with is requiring business attire at all times. This trend has been going on for some time, so while over a fifth of this year’s Best Firms specifically reported having a “Dress for Your Day” policy, it’s a safe bet that many others have adopted it as well; it’s just been in place for so long that it no longer seems noteworthy — but rest assured that it is. Apart from making staff more comfortable, it’s also an expression of confidence in their good sense. As Ennis, Pellum & Associates CPAs put it, “All members of our team are empowered to consider an appropriate balance of comfort and professionalism and use good judgment to ‘dress for their day.'”

Varney & Associates CPAs also gives its employees “autonomy” to choose their clothes as they see fit, but it has also taken on an even greater shibboleth of the accounting profession: “We do not have an hours requirement and focus on project completion and goal-setting,” the Manhattan, Kansas-based firm reported.

Campbell, California-based Johanson & Yau has also restricted its hour requirements: “Our billable hour goals for associates and senior associates are among the lowest in the industry. We successfully eliminated firmwide minimum work hours during tax season.” (They have also eliminated performance review ratings in favor of a forward-facing process that focuses more on employee and firm goals.)

2022 Best Firms -- Ennis Pellum
Dressing for their day at Ennis Pellum

Another way to make the workplace less annoying doesn’t involve what firms do, but who they serve: Among the largest firms on Accounting Today’s Top 100 Firms list, a significant number reported that they are culling their client lists this year, and that one key sector of clients who are set for the chopping block are those who mistreat, abuse or otherwise annoy their staff.

Business attire, aggravating minimum charge hours, limiting work requirements during tax season, and jerk clients are only the beginning: The top workplaces in the profession are looking at all elements of their business practices — no matter how time-honored — and rethinking them for the 21st century. One area they’re particularly reexamining, of course, is the insistence that employees come into the office, which we’ll examine in tomorrow’s entry.

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