The past two years have brought about numerous disruptions to our society at large and to our working environments in particular. With a large portion of workforces having shifted to remote work policies in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, many companies have found their employees hesitant—or outright unwilling—to give up the safety and convenience of working remotely, even as executives push for a return to an in-person working environment. According to a Bloomberg poll conducted in May 2021, 39% of respondents indicated they would consider quitting if they were unable to maintain a hybrid work model.
Big Four accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) has chosen to turn a potentially disruptive trend into an opportunity for innovation by empowering all 40,000 of its U.S. client services employees to work virtually from any location they want—and the change is permanent. Support staff and operations employees that do not interface directly with clients have already had the option to work remotely full-time. This move marks a departure from traditional accounting industry work practices, although rival firms Deloitte and KPMG have granted similar flexibility to their own workforces.
PwC employees who choose to work remotely will still have to come into the office a maximum of three days per month for in-person meetings, client visits, and learning sessions, but are otherwise free to work from wherever they like. Those that choose to work from lower cost of living areas can expect to see their pay cut, similar to Google’s model of basing remote worker pay on location. This could cause a long-lasting drop in employee earnings potential.
In a memo to employees, PwC stated that it is offering the new policy to attract and retain talent and become more diverse. Partners at PwC whose employees choose to remain in the office will not be permitted to work completely remotely. Additionally, the company is not planning to make any changes to its real estate holdings in response to the new policy, opting to develop alternative ways to utilize the existing office space more collaboratively. This new U.S. policy follows a June 2021 decision to permit all PwC employees in Britain similar work location flexibility.