PricewaterhouseCoopers and Schroders are to allow the majority of staff to continue to work from home after the Covid-19 pandemic as the health emergency prompts a major shift in the office-based culture that has been a hallmark of City firms for generations.
The accounting company PwC, which employs 22,000 staff in the UK, is predicting that the majority of employees will move to a more even split of home and office working on a permanent basis.
Last week PwC had just a little over a quarter of its staff spending time in one of its 20 UK offices, a spokesman said.
Kevin Ellis, the PwC chairman, said: “There’s no question that lockdown has done away with presenteeism. It’s shown many business leaders that their people can be productive, engaged and happy working from home.” The company hopes to have its offices at 50% capacity by the end of September, if it is safe to do so, although returning will be voluntary.
Schroders, the FTSE-100 listed fund manager, has told staff that they will not be required to return to the office full time even after the heath emergency has passed.
“Rethinking the rulebook on flexibility will ultimately prove a huge shot in the arm for productivity in the long term,” said Emma Holden, the human resources boss at Schroders.
Prior to the pandemic, staff had the flexibility to work remotely one day a week. Under the new plan, staff are free to agree working patterns with their managers, with no set expectation of a number of days in the office.
Other City firms that have instituted permanent changes to working life include the broker Numis, which told staff in May that five-days-a-week office working will “simply not return”. Other financial firms, including Standard Life Aberdeen and NatWest Group, have indicated their staff will work remotely for the rest of this year at least.
The London mayor, Sadiq Khan, has said empty offices in the capital are already causing a major problem for the struggling economy, with homeworkers not needing to spend on travel, food or going out in London.
“The key thing I think we need to understand is that if we all stay at home working it’s a big problem for central London,” he said in an interview with LBC. “Many small businesses rely on your workers going to work, the cafes, bars, the dry cleaners, the shoe repair shops and others.”
Last month Andrew Bailey, the governor of the Bank of England, encouraged companies to get staff back to their offices to help revive the faltering British economy.