PwC and Schroders staff to work from home permanently

PwC and Schroders staff to work from home permanently

Staff at Big Four accountancy firm PwC and asset manager company Schroders are to work from home permanently signalling a change to flexible working in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

Kevin Ellis, PwC’s chairman, has said thousands of the firm’s 22,000 UK staff will never return to the office on a full-time basis.

Similarly, Schroders is to allow thousands of its staff to work from home permanently in a radical overhaul of the firm’s operations which will see the company ditch the traditional nine-to-five work schedule.

One Schroders insider said: “Staff have been told the firm will not go back to nine-to-five.”

Another added that the change will end “presenteeism” which has long been an issue in finance, with employees known for putting in shifts of 12 hours or longer.

Despite the changes in working hours, Schroders does not have any current plans to get rid of the London office, The Daily Telegraph reports. 

PwC is preparing for the majority of its UK staff to continue working from home at least part time even when the pandemic has passed. So far, only 6,000 of PwC’s staff have returned to work in the firm’s 20 offices across the UK.

PwC has said that in the long term, it thinks while all staff will go into the office some days a week, this will be combined with home working for the rest of the week.

Mr Ellis said: “There’s no question that lockdown has done away with presenteeism. It has shown many business leaders that their people can be productive, engaged and happy working from home.

“A blend of office and home working is the future, but there’s still very much a place for the office. Working from home for long periods of time is not beneficial for everyone.”

Before the COVID-19 crisis, Schroders’ policy was that employees could work from home one day a week, but had to be in for the other four. Now, there are no expectations on how often workers must be at their desk, with staff free to agree on working patterns with their manager.

Emma Holden, the firm’s global head of human resources, said: “Rethinking the rule book on flexibility will prove a huge shot in the arm for productivity in the long term.”

The new rules at Schroders and PwC could trigger similar changes at rival firms.

The changes in working practices are also likely to exacerbate worries that the changes triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic will become permanent and turn city centres into ghost towns. Last month, Andrew Bailey, the Bank of England governor, urged firms to reopen their offices ‘for the good of the British economy’.

Several other City of London firms have made permanent changes to working life including Numis, broker to more than 210 London-listed companies, law firm Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, HSBC and Barclays.

However, Schroders is thought to be the first major City institution to have permanently changed its policies on flexible working. Many large businesses face an uphill struggle to get staff back into city centres as they suffer continuing worries over coronavirus.

Nevertheless, Schroders has reopened its offices as a “sanctuary” for those who do want to return to the office, but only about 100 out of 2,500 staff had returned to the office during the first week of August.

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