NEW YORK, Sept. 30 (Reuters) – Accounting and consulting firm PwC announced to Reuters that it will enable all of its 40,000 US customer service reps to work and live virtually anywhere they want, permanently.
The policy is a departure from the rigid stance of the accounting industry known for encouraging people to spend long nights in the office. Other major accounting firms like Deloitte and KPMG have also given their employees more choices to work remotely in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
PwC’s assistant human resources director Yolanda Seals-Coffield said in an interview that the company was the first in its industry to provide full-time virtual work to customer service employees. PwC’s support staff and staff in areas such as human resources and legal operations who do not face customers have already had the opportunity to work virtually full-time.
PwC employees who opt for virtual work would have to come to the office a maximum of three days a month for personal appointments such as critical team meetings, customer visits and training, said Seals-Coffield.
“We learned a lot from the pandemic, and working virtually while we ponder the evolution of flexibility is a natural next step,” said Seals-Coffield. “If you’re a reputable employee, in customer service and want to work virtually, you can do that, period.”
However, location does play a role in how PwC employees are paid, Seals-Coffield said. Employees who choose to work virtually full-time in a cheaper location would lower their salaries, she added.
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PwC announced in a memo this week to employees that it is offering this new policy to attract and retain talent and become more diverse. Partners at PwC whose employees are regularly in the office are not allowed to work completely remotely.
“We are confident we can manage hybrid teams,” said Seals-Coffield. She added that PwC’s research suggests that 30-35% of eligible workers will take up the offer. PwC has a total of 55,000 US employees, and the new policy will allow the majority to work virtually if they want.
Seals-Coffield said PwC is not planning any significant changes to its real estate footprint as a result of the new policy. The company plans to use its office space differently and more collaboratively, she said without going into detail.
In addition to providing auditing and bookkeeping services, PwC advises companies on issues such as return-to-office. When asked how PwC’s new policy will advise clients on the issue, Seals-Coffield said other companies are deciding how to approach this “in a way that works for their employees.”
In June, PwC announced that it would hire 100,000 people over the next five years in jobs that would help clients report on diversity and climate. The company currently employs 284,000 worldwide.
Deloitte said in June that all of its 20,000 employees in the UK will be able to choose whether or not to work from home.
Reporting by Jessica DiNapoli in New York; Editing by Aurora Ellis
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