Sunday 2 August 2020 1:42 pm

PwC staff encouraged to return to work

PwC staff have been encouraged to return to work on a voluntary basis, as the Big Four company’s chairman heralded the end of “presenteeism for ever”.

Kevin Ellis, chair of accountancy firm PwC — which has more than 22,000 staff across the UK — said he hopes to have around half of the company’s employees back at work by next month.

Ellis said the age of presenteeism — the fear of leaving your work desk — has been annihilated by the pandemic as employees work from home.

Covid-19 has “bashed away presenteeism for ever”, Ellis said, adding that PwC would look to slash office attendance from five days a week to three or four days a week as a result of the pandemic.

PwC has 20 UK offices, including two in London in Embankment and Southwark.

Ellis said employees were keen to return to work after months of lockdown to get out the house and support local businesses. 

“Just because you can work from home, doesn’t mean you should,” he said. “There are other factors; mental health and stress ones — our average age is 31 — but also the local communities.”

A spokesperson for PwC told City A.M: “We’ve long promoted flexible working but we also know many of our people want to spend some time in the office.

“Safety is at the heart of the decisions we’re making and the precautions we’ve put in place within offices.”

The precautions include temperature checks on arrival, one-way systems, colour-coded seats and heat sensors.

“If people are vulnerable or apprehensive then clearly they don’t have to come back — flexibility is key,” the spokesperson added.

It comes as Boris Johnson on Friday encouraged staff to “enter discussions” with their employers to start returning to work, after slamming the brakes on wider lockdown relaxations due to a spike in new infections.

The move marks a significant shake-up to guidance that has been in place for more than four months, which required everyone who could work from home to do so.

Firms will instead now decide who to start bringing back to the workplace. 

Announcing the change, the PM said: “We are going to give employers more discretion.

“That could mean of course continuing to work from home, which is one way of working safely and which has worked for many employers and employees.Or it could mean making workplaces safe by following Covid-secure guidelines.”

Offices will see extra cleaning routines, socially distanced desks, and screens and floor markings across office floors.