office workers wearing masks
Image: Luis Alvarez/Getty

PwC is adding more company-wide vacation time to its annual calendar, expanding parental leave and giving everyone a raise as part of a new employee experience program. The new My+ program is a $2.4 billion investment, the firm announced Friday.

This year PwC gave a 5% fiscal mid-year increase to all employees and promised to do annual base salary increases starting this fiscal year. The company is making other changes in these four areas:

  1. Well-being: PwC will shut down for two weeks each year in July and December.
  2. Total rewards: Parental leave expands to 12 weeks, and there will be additional mental health benefits including increasing the reimbursement rate from 70% to 90%.
  3. Development: The firm is adding a new training platform in addition to more leadership and coaching skills as well as the option to work on different teams and take on new assignments.
  4. Always a PwCer: PwC promises to help employees “pursue professional paths that excite them and support their well-being, development, sense of purpose and ambitions–whether that’s inside or outside our firm.”

Yolanda Seals-Coffield, deputy people leader at PwC, said in a press release that the company can’t compete on compensation and benefits alone.

“There has been a fundamental shift in the relationship between employees and employers,” she said. “We must take bold action to provide a personalized career experience, based on choice, that engages our people to stay longer and inspires top talent to join us.”

Neil Dhar, consulting solutions co-leader, PwC, said the design of the new program is based on feedback from people at PwC and on what they need today and what they might need over the next few years. This includes the ability to make personal career decisions.

“At PwC, that could mean spending a couple years in tax before making the jump to a new business area like cyber or mergers and acquisitions, or deciding to scale back and work less hours in order to meet upcoming demand in their personal lives, or to just unplug for a bit,” Dhar said.

The company announced last fall that all 40,000 employees can work virtually or in-person. This year workers will also have options for reduced schedules, paid leaves of absence and the potential to work from anywhere.

Dhar said the two, week-long shutdowns reflect the company’s commitment to flexibility and well-being for employees.

“Having a designated, firmwide shutdown really empowers our people to fully disconnect, knowing that we are all taking time to step away and recharge,” he said.

The new learning platform launches in July and will cover ESG, cyber, mergers and acquisitions, cloud, as well as leadership qualities like empathy, listening, and providing constructive feedback. Employees will have work time to complete this training.

Dhar said the “Always a PwCer” initiative reflects the reality that the company is just one bus stop on the career journey for some people.

“While we hope to boost retention with our new people strategy, we’re also looking to provide our people with a diverse range of universal business skills so that if they choose to leave the firm, they are walking out of our doors a better, well-rounded and values-led business professional,” he said.

Stress levels spike as offices reopen

Based on findings from the latest Future Forum Pulse survey, PwC is addressing many of the pain points employees are feeling as the pandemic continues and employers require in-person work. The Spring 2022 Future Forum Pulse survey asked 10,818 knowledge workers in the U.S., Australia, France, Germany, Japan and the U.K. about stress levels, return-to-office policies and productivity. The findings were not good, with stress levels hitting the highest levels since the summer of 2020.

The survey measures eight employee experience measures, and these scores fell for all knowledge workers. However, full-time office workers reported the biggest declines:

  • 2x as steep a decline in work-life balance, compared with hybrid and remote workers.
  • 1.6x as steep a decline in overall satisfaction with their working environment, compared with flexible workers.
  • 1.5x worsening work-related stress and anxiety, compared with remote workers.

The survey found that employees report all-time high scores for work-related stress in every country except France and Japan.

The number of people working remotely has dropped since the last survey in November, and the number of people working in the office five days per week is up to 34%. The survey also found that workers who are unhappy with their current level of flexibility are three times as likely to look for a new job over the next year.

The survey also found a disconnect between workers and executives when it comes to in-person work. Thirty-five percent of workers are in the office five days a week compared withonly 19% of executives.

Brian Elliott, executive leader of Future Forum, said in the report that leaders need to move away from dictating days in the office and rigid 9-to-5 schedules and focus on aligning their teams around a common purpose and leading by example.

“Trusting your teams with the flexibility to work where and when works best for them will lead to better business results and happier employees,” he said.