PricewaterhouseCoopers expects the majority of its 22,000 UK staff to spend some of their time working remotely even after the coronavirus crisis passes.
PwC, one of the so-called Big Four accounting firms, is predicting a more even split between office and home working in the medium-to-long term, spokesperson Richard Pain said. Usage of its offices has plunged during the crisis, with a little more than a quarter of its UK employees spending time in one of its 20 offices in the country last week, he added.
It’s the latest sign that the pandemic is driving lasting change in workplace culture, after employees across different industries proved they can work efficiently from home offices or kitchen tables.
“There’s no question that lockdown has done away with presenteeism,” said Kevin Ellis, chairman and senior partner at PwC UK. “It’s shown many business leaders that their people can be productive, engaged and happy working from home.”
UK firms including Standard Life Aberdeen and NatWest Group have indicated that most staff will work remotely for the rest of 2020. UK house-builder Taylor Wimpey is considering changes to the layout of its houses in a wager that the pandemic will change the way people use their homes.
Still, PwC’s Mr Ellis pointed out that working from home for long periods of time is not beneficial for everyone and “getting together in person” remains important. The company hopes to have its offices operating at about 50 per cent capacity by the end of September, if it’s safe to do so, though returning will be voluntary.
“A blend of office and home working is the future – but there’s still very much a place for the office,” Mr Ellis said, noting that the firm also has a responsibility to help to get shops, restaurants and transport systems “back on their feet”.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is advocating a return to offices to help mitigate the recession.
PwC published a survey this month showing that 86 per cent of UK chief executive officers see a permanent shift toward more remote working, dropping to 78 per cent globally. Danske Bank, Denmark’s biggest bank, has already given staff a permanent option to work at home, while Switzerland's UBS Group may introduce a similar policy for a third of its workers.
PwC's plans were first reported in the Mail on Sunday.