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January 27, 2023

PwC Is Still Not Forcing People Back to the Office (Really)

Since last November, PwC has graciously allowed 40,000 client-facing people to choose whether or not they want to be in the office (when they don’t have to be, that is) and as other companies begin an aggressive push to get people to return to office after Labor Day, the firm is reiterating its stance on remote work.

For months, certain companies have begun gently encouraging — or outright requiring — their people to get back to the office, even if it’s just a few days a week. As we approach Labor Day, many of these pro-RTO organizations believe this month — two and a half years after the pandemic sent everyone home for work — is the right time to get everyone back under the fluorescent lights. For example, Apple CEO Tim Cook wants employees in the office Tuesdays, Thursdays, and a third day to be determined by each individual team starting September 5. In response, a group of Apple employees calling themselves Apple Together are circulating a petition rebuking the policy. It reads:

For the past 2+ years, Apple’s formerly office-based employees have performed exceptional work, flexibly, both outside and inside traditional office environments. However, Apple leadership recently announced they require a general return to office starting the week of Sept 5 (Labor Day). This uniform mandate from senior leadership does not consider the unique demands of each job role nor the diversity of individuals.

Those asking for more flexible arrangements have many compelling reasons and circumstances: from disabilities (visible or not); family care; safety, health, and environmental concerns; financial considerations; to just plain being happier and more productive.

The one thing we all have in common is wanting to do the best work of our lives for a company whose official stance is to do what’s right rather than what’s easy.

Apple already lost machine learning director Ian Goodfellow to Google earlier this year, Google’s more gracious remote work policy had a bit to do with that. “I believe strongly that more flexibility would have been the best policy for my team,” he told employees on his way out the door.

Surely PwC knows that in this market and with accounting talent harder to find than certain parts of the female anatomy now is not the time to make an aggressive push for RTO.

Kimberly Jones, PwC U.S. managing director, talent strategy and people experience leader, recently told Human Resources Daily: “We don’t feel like we need to. We’re being responsive to what our people tell us they want and need. These last couple years, we’ve discovered that we can be productive and serve our clients very well without forcing people to be in offices.”

This is a sentiment we’ve heard echoed by various firm leaders in the past few months and one that makes sense for the foreseeable future. Firms don’t have to be enthusiastic about remote work, they just have to trust their people to decide for themselves when they need to be in the office and when they’re better off staying home. Best not to poke this bear when just about everyone is entertaining recruiter calls and offers.

Read more on the Labor Day RTO push:
Return-to-Office Deadline After Labor Day Sets Up Showdowns [Bloomberg]
Workers Face Pressure As Top Companies Push Post-Labor Day Return to Office [Newsweek]

Earlier on Going Concern:
Corporate Overlords Try to Scare Us Back Into the Office With Figures on How Much WFH is Costing You
Top 5 Reasons Why Employers Want You Back In the Office
Attn Firm Leaders: No One Wants to Work at Your Stupid, Ugly Office Park

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