PwC offers employees free Friday afternoon in July and August

02 April 2021 4 min. read
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PwC has become the latest in a succession of corporate giants to announce long-term changes to its working week, with the launch of its new flexibility scheme. The plan includes the firm offering staff “a reduced working day” at the end of the week during July and August, with many employees expected to clock off around lunchtime.

Flexible working has long been touted as a game-changer when it comes to boosting performance and increasing the inclusivity of the modern workplace. Stressed, over-worked employees are more likely to take time off sick and more likely to quit, while over-worked employees are less engaged and productive.

Meanwhile, flexible working can better support employees in achieving a better work-life balance – something which could enable more mothers to retain high-paid work while raising a family.

As a result, even before the pandemic, a raft of top companies were already looking to adapt their working week to accommodate the needs of their workforce. With the lockdown months of Covid-19 having further illustrated that working from home, and on flexible hours can actually boost productivity, there is mounting evidence that the age of the office panopticon is no longer fit for purpose.

PwC offers employees free Friday afternoon in July and August

With this in mind, the transformation of the traditional working week has accelerated in 2021, with the likes of BP, HSBC, Aviva, and British Airways setting expectations of staff to work from home at least part time even after restrictions end.

The latest firm to publicise such plans is Big Four professional services firm PwC, which has announced that its 22,000 UK staff will now work from home between 40% and 60% of the time, and be allowed to choose the times they start and finish their working days. The rest of the time, PwC will expect staff to spend between 40% to 60% of their time with their colleagues, either in offices or at client sites.

Commenting on the news, PwC’s UK Chairman Kevin Ellis said, “We've long promoted flexible working, and we hope this announcement will make it much more the norm rather than the exception. We want our people to feel trusted and empowered. These changes are in direct response to soundings from our people, who've said they value a mix of working from home and in the office.”

On top of this, PwC declared that its hybrid working model would include “a reduced working day” at the end of the week during July and August – with the firm anticipating most of its staff will clock off at lunchtime after a more compact working week. While it is not clear from its release how this will impact staff pay – and whether their pay will rise to mitigate the reduction in hours they work – PwC has previously hosted similar initiatives to reward its staff for hard work.

In 2018, for instance, the company gave all it’s staff the day off at the end of June after a positive financial year.

Things to come

According to research from consulting firm Theta Global Advisors, PwC’s plan to support flexible working is just a taste of what is to come for the broader economy. A recent survey from the firm found that 57% of workers now want to choose where to work to be the most productive.

While some major corporations such as Goldman Sachs continue to denounce the idea of flexi-working in the long term, dialogues and action have affirmatively changed. These new working norms open a variety of opportunities for employers to improve the health and productivity of their workforces and employ higher quality talent going forward with fewer geographic restrictions.

Chris Biggs, a Partner at Theta, said of PwC’s plans, “To ensure people are at their happiest and most productive, flexibility is needed in both where and when they work. Freedom from the office must also mean freedom to go to the office to account for different experiences, priorities, and conditions. PwC's adopting new policies will account for substantial differentiations in their employees' experience of working during Covid-19.”