PwC announces nearly 40,000 U.S. employees can work remote from anywhere in the country

PwC announced today it will allow all U.S. employees who can telework the ability to work virtually from anywhere in the continental U.S. moving forward.

The new policy will impact nearly 40,000 employees who work in client services, including consultants, auditors and tax professionals. The company says it is the first professional services firm to offer workers a permanent work-from-anywhere option.

"If you're a client services employee in good standing and you want to work virtually, we will make it happen — full stop," PwC deputy people leader Yolanda Seals-Coffield tells CNBC Make It.

"The breadth of how many people are impacted by this is huge," she adds. "We don't know how many people will adopt this yet, but that's what makes this a big leap of faith from a leadership perspective to offer people this flexibility."

PwC, a global network of independent firms, has a total of 55,000 U.S. employees, including people in office services or IT support whose job requires them to work in-person.

Following the announcement, workers will have two weeks to let their leaders know if they want to opt into the work-from-anywhere model, though employees can revisit and modify to meet their needs over time. The firm will spend the remainder of the year making the transition and will evaluate the working model by June 2022, with assessments "at least once a year" to address areas of improvement.

The firm will keep its current approach to pay, which is to compensate people based on where they live. For example, all PwC employees who live in the New York City metro area will be paid based on market rates, whether they're fully remote, in-person or working on a hybrid arrangement.

This is in line with many company pay structures, including those of tech influencers like Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft and Google, who say workers who relocate to a less expensive market could see a pay cut. A handful of smaller companies, including Reddit and Zillow, which also have work-from-anywhere policies for most employees, will pay all workers based on their job, regardless of where they live or how they work.

Prior to the work-from-anywhere announcement, PwC planned to bring most U.S. employees back to offices on a hybrid schedule, with the expectation they would be onsite one to three days a week starting November 1.

The new fully remote offering is the latest in the company's commitment to giving employees more flexibility over the last decade, Seals-Coffield says. Prior to the pandemic, 7,000 non-client facing employees in the U.S. were already working on a fully remote model.

Executives hope added flexibility will help employee retention during a time when "the talent market is hotter than it has been in recent memory," Seals-Coffield says. A recent PwC report found 65% of employees in the overall labor market were looking for a new job as of August — nearly double the share of workers planning to quit as of May.

Many job market experts have attributed the spring and summer's record quitting spree to workers feeling confident they can find a new job with better pay, hours and working conditions, such as the option to work remotely. The share of online job searches for remote positions jumped 460% in the two years between June 2019 and June 2021, according to Glassdoor.

PwC leaders also believe a work-from-anywhere policy will expand the talent pool they can recruit from, which could help diversity, equity and inclusion efforts. The firm will also have to consider whether workers more likely to telework full-time — including women, caregivers and workers of color — will have the same access to equitable pay, support, training and opportunities for advancement as those reporting to offices.

Seals-Coffield says the firm has spent the last 18 months developing leadership trainings for managing virtual teams, with a focus on "driving equity across the teams so there's not an 'out of sight, out of mind,' impact for people."

PwC has made several efforts to improve flexible work options and benefits to employees during the pandemic, which can have a disproportionately positive impact on working women and caregivers. In response to caregiving challenges during Covid, PwC introduced a 20% leave-of-absence pay for up to six months, and doubled its emergency care stipend to $2,000 to cover backup child, spouse or eldercare costs.

"What I'm most proud of is that we didn't lose more women to turnover during the pandemic," Seals-Coffield says, due to the firm proactively creating flexibility in the way work can be done, including on reduced or condensed schedules.

The firm has supported everyday flexibility by setting a companywide a goal of shortening meetings by 25%, and giving employees Friday afternoons as protected time they can use for focus work or time off.

In spring 2021, PwC also made headlines for offering a $250 vacation bonus to employees who take 40 consecutive hours of vacation at a time, up to once per quarter, for a total $1,000 yearly incentive.

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