How CFOs are planning for the next phase of remote work

At the Fortune CFO Collaborative on Wednesday, executives from Accenture, Toyota North America, Cisco, and Workday made it clear that chief financial officers will play a big role in the future of work.

As the go-to person in charge of a company’s financials, the CFO looks at every business decision through the numbers. When it comes to the question of remote work, though, emphasis on the numbers shouldn’t overrule the need to hire talented employees, said Accenture’s CFO KC McClure.

Instead of focusing on how much a company could save on office space, McClure said it’s more important to look at your organization and ask what skills are needed.

“There’s so much that a CFO can do to really look at how to think about talent differently, because it can save costs. And the ability to access talent in a different way post-pandemic is even more important,” McClure told Fortune.

This type of thinking is especially important to Accenture, given that it hired 100,000 people last year. Hiring so many people during a pandemic when the company was still working remotely brought its own complications, said Accenture CEO Julie Sweet.

Much of Accenture’s workforce is still remote, so it was important for both Sweet and McClure that new employees were made to feel welcome at the organization.

Accenture does this through augmented reality for onboarding and via a “welcome box” that adds a physical touch to the experience.

Despite cuts to the budget for Accenture-branded freebies during the pandemic, Sweet said McClure made it clear that the company would not cut back on its welcome boxes, because of the connection they have to cultivating talent and to company culture.

This emphasis on making employees feel welcome is more important than ever given that the days of every employee working from an office are gone forever, said Cisco CFO Scott Herren.

But the change from employees being full-time in an office to working part-time from the office and part-time from home won’t come easy for all companies.

Workday CFO Robynne Sisco said that many of its employees will be on a flexible schedule that will combine both working from the office and from home. (Before the pandemic, about two-thirds of the company’s employees were working mostly from the office.)

Companies need to find a middle ground for remote work where some pivotal moments are in person, she said. Workday for its part is trying to identify ways to still collaborate and build relationships with its remote workforce, and will adjust as needed, said Sisco.

That being said, there is no one-size-fits-all solution to the issue of remote work. Toyota North America will be moving to a hybrid model for remote work early next year, said CFO Tracey Doi, with local managers able to make their own adjustments to best serve Toyota’s customers.

Because of all the changes and the uncertainty that comes with returning to the office, CFOs need to make sure they have the trust of their employees, Sisco noted.

“I think having built that trust with your employees through your strong culture over time is what’s going to get you through these challenging times,” Sisco said.

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