Between May 2020 and July 2020, the NYSSCPA surveyed a random sample of NYSSCPA members and asked them about the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on their practice. Not surprisingly, for the vast majority of NYSSCPA members, COVID-19 has severely impacted their practice. This survey discusses their most significant changes.
This past year has been unlike any other in recent memory. To understand the impact the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has had on the accounting profession and business environment, the NYSSCPA engaged McKinley Advisors, a Washington D.C., consulting firm, to conduct a survey of slightly more than 1,000 members between May and July 2020. The survey results identified significant changes in current practice that may continue to have impact in 2021 and beyond.
Areas of Concern
Overwhelmingly, the number one concern of members was their own personal health and safety, followed by the health and well-being of others in their profession or industry. More than three-quarters of respondents were concerned about the overall economic impact of COVID-19 on their profession or industry. Only slightly more than half of the participants were concerned or very concerned about the ability of their profession or industry to operate effectively, as a result of social distancing and other guidelines.
At the time of the survey, 80% of respondents said there was no change to their employment status. Of the remaining 20%, 3% had been furloughed, another 6% had lost their jobs, and 11% had experienced reduced work hours or transitioned from full-time to part-time.
Impact on Working Arrangements
More than three-quarters of survey respondents no longer worked full-time in their offices. A slight majority works remotely now due to COVID-19, while another 25% work mostly remotely. One-quarter of respondents mentioned that there has been no change to their work arrangements due to COVID-19.
Returning to Work
When this study was conducted (between May and July 2020), one-third of respondents expected to be back to work by the end of July. One-quarter expected to be back in the office by the end of September, and another one-quarter by the end of October or later; one-fifth of respondents were just unsure. This underscores how expectations for control of the virus were overly optimistic, with so many expecting a faster return to in-person work-place arrangements. This in turn may have created greater uncertainty and planning difficulties, with a greater need for considering challenges such as workplace culture and employee engagement.
The survey revealed significant changes in the work environment of NYSSCPA members. More than half of respondents reported that the pandemic has made conducting work more difficult, as a result of social distancing, remote locations, and other factors. In addition, over one-quarter of respondents mentioned that the demand for their services has declined, and two-fifths were concerned about the financial health of their employer. Increased difficulty in communicating and collaborating with colleagues was mentioned by more than half of respondents. Slightly under half of the respondents, however, were concerned with being exposed to the coronavirus while on the job.
Projected Actions of Employers
Regarding office space, one-quarter of respondents mentioned that they will either try to sell physical office space or terminate/opt-out of rented office space leases. Another half plan to keep some or all staff working virtually after the pandemic subsides. The inescapable conclusion here is that smaller staff sizes and an increasingly remote workforce will reduce firms’ traditional need for office space. The impact on the commercial real estate market may well be significant, and the impact might be felt throughout 2021 and beyond.