CE26 - Innovation, travail

Auditors' behavior in remote work – REMOTAUDIT

Submission summary

The pandemic of COVID-19 has in numerous economic sectors required employees to work remotely. Employees had to quickly adapt their timings and homes by dividing them into private and public spaces, thus creating new working environments. The impact of telecommuting on productivity has engendered a debate. On the one hand, remote work seems to have positive effects on individual productivity. Telecommuters can reallocate more time for work owing to the decrease of travel time and fewer meetings (Bieser et al., 2021). Under these conditions, the discomfort, fatigue, and psychological stress faced by the workers should be reduced. Moreover, they could be motivated by the higher flexibility and autonomy in sharing their time between private and professional lives. On the other hand, some researchers have proved that productivity can decrease beyond a certain threshold of telecommuting. This can be explained by several causes, such as lack of experience in using IT systems or poor environment at home due to the absence of a quiet workspace.
Moreover, there is a loss of collective productivity, which can be due to a lower level of valuable and quick communication that is only possible through face-to-face interactions with colleagues and clients (Battiston et al., 2017). People receive too much hard information; the lack of physical contact, which reduces social ties, prevents them from getting the soft information that does not exist in data. Consequently, the remote situation probably adversely impacts work quality because people have to filter the core information from a high amount of data and extract some meaningful soft information that they cannot obtain through video conferencing.
Thus, remote work raises one question of crucial importance for society: which levers, in terms of innovation, can we develop to achieve higher quality results in remote work as compared to on-site work? The REMOTAUDIT project tackles this issue by improving information systems to maintain or increase the telecommuters’ quality of work.
The audit sector is appropriate to analyze the question of remote work for several reasons. First, the firms’ audit is pivotal to protecting stakeholders’ interests and preserving the firms’ economic health. Second, auditing seems to be suitable for remote work, not only during the pandemic but also in the long run. Auditors generally collect data and work within the offices of the audited firm for several days or weeks to form their opinions and certify the accounts. The trend of working remotely might last well beyond the pandemic, as it could better organize auditors’ lives and increase individual productivity gains (Lambert et al., 2017). Third, a remote audit may lead to a loss of soft information. Most physical data can be procured through online means. However, in the audit process, the auditors must have a series of interviews with the firms’ managers. Although video conferences assist in communication, a lot of soft data that could be exchanged face-to-face, for example, during informal meetings, will be lost.
Consequently, remote-audits might lead to an increase in the number of misstated items in financial statements, as auditors may fail to spot some good-faith mistakes made by the audited firms’ accountants. Similarly, there might be an increase in the number of frauds as the firms’ directors become pressured by the current economic circumstances and realize that they could get away with creative accounting with ease. For a lasting and healthy economic rebound after this recession, we need to ensure that auditors can effectively perform their watchdog role remotely.
The objective of the project is to get a better understanding of the perceived and objective impacts of remote work on audit quality and create new tools, such as nudges (Thaler and Sunstein, 2008), that improve audit quality.

Project coordination

Jean-François Gajewski (EA 3713 - CENTRE DE RECHERCHE MAGELLAN)

The author of this summary is the project coordinator, who is responsible for the content of this summary. The ANR declines any responsibility as for its contents.


HEC HEC Montréal / Tech3Lab
ESSCA Ecole supérieure des sciences commerciales d'Angers (ESSCA) / Unité d’Enseignement et de Recherche Finance, Accounting & Management Control

Help of the ANR 381,364 euros
Beginning and duration of the scientific project: March 2022 - 48 Months

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