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Mobile technology

Meet the mobile-only organisation; PwC

We talk to Duncan Bowker of PwC, to discover more on their shift to a mobile-first workplace and what impact this has had on company culture.

As we enter a new decade, many companies are changing the way in which they communicate with both staff and clients.

PwC is one of the world’s leading professional services firms, delivering quality in assurance, advisory, and tax services, operating in 157 countries with over 276,000 people.  Before the lockdown ensued, PwC had already embraced new, agile ways of working including the introduction of a ‘mobile-only’ policy across its offices, motivated by a review of its regional support in the UK, with landlines being used for reception purposes. 

Duncan Bowker, Senior Communications Manager for PwC in the North, explains more about their switch to mobile-only:

What triggered the new ‘mobile-only ’ policy and how did it come about?

We have 10,000 employees based across UK regions, where the trend in recent years is to have fewer but larger regional offices. In 2016 the Leeds office moved to new offices at Central Square and this prompted a decision to look beyond the traditional, both in terms of the office environment and also in terms of telecoms.

The Leeds office was the first PwC office to be ‘mobile-only’, which was very different for the professional services sector.  The new office space was open plan, with hot-desking and landlines wouldn’t work in this environment.

What is your definition of a mobile-first culture?

The mobile-first policy means the mobile phone is the first choice of communication for and with our staff.  Combined with working more flexibly, it enables a good work-life balance.   If there is a downside to no landlines it’s that employees could be considered as ‘always on’  but there is definitely no expectation from the firm that employees are contactable 24/7, far from it – especially now we have moved into the new norm of full remote working. In fact, our culture has meant we’ve fortunately been able to transition seamlessly to this new way of working and literally moved our entire workforce to remote working overnight.

Tell us more about the implementation plan. How did the staff react? 

In terms of communicating the changed ways of working,  our staff have quickly become accustomed to this.  We’ve always given people the trust to work flexibly from wherever they are, while the new office environments have moved with the times, helping us attract the very best talent. It has been refreshing to see the results, with our staff thriving and becoming more efficient and more relaxed and this has stood us in good stead with all the systems in place to deal with remote working during the pandemic.

How did you manage the culture change? 

Our Manchester office was the second to trial this policy, but now all PwC offices across the UK are ‘mobile-first’. Today, brands live in people’s pockets and we were well aware of this trend and were also keen to attract and retain fresh new talent, so with this in mind the company created new and engaging office environments where employees would want to come and spend time.

In terms of the process of culture change, a diverse steering group, from new joiners to senior partners, worked together for the past three years, canvassing the opinions and requirements of all staff. By working together with a design team, a space was created that is fit for the future of work,  providing first-class space and facilities for clients, colleagues and community interests that PwC works closely with. The workspace design gives staff and clients a choice of flexible and tech-enabled settings for now and in the future and this will be adapted further to ensure the safety of all our employees when we return gradually to the office setting.

PwC, which historically has been recognised as more London-centric, has now engaged in a major push across the UK, recognising the importance of clients in the regions and tech innovations have provided PwC with a network and structure to achieve this.

What about the tech to support the new culture, is it all mobile-driven? 

PwC has become more agile, acting quickly, like a smaller company would, adopting other tech solutions for a more flexible way of working, such as using google technology such as ‘Meets’ which has meant that since we’ve been working remotely, we have still been able to conduct meetings with colleagues right across the UK. It’s even been refreshing to see everyone relax more whilst we have been working from home – it’s not uncommon to see the odd friendly pooch join in on a Google ‘Meet’!

What other working practices have you adopted? 

The company’s new policy is all about working to suit your personal circumstances, with flexible working allowing staff to work from home, promoting greater work-life balance. This flexible approach would not be so effective if landlines still existed.

Many small and medium businesses are already mobile-first – what else can such a large business learn from them?

Now more than ever we have all seen the importance of being adaptable and the need to embrace agile ways of working. People are not just motivated by the financials rewards, it’s the flexibility, work-life balance and the values of a business that are important and being mobile-first supports this, whatever the size of your business.

Do you have any landlines at all? 

In all our offices we have a land line for reception and we don’t plan to change that, as for enquiries it’s useful to have one number for the receptionist who can channel calls through to the right person.  However, across the board staff use their mobile phone as their main communication devices, but they also use it as they would use a laptop, to share and edit documents, which can prove essential when they are travelling or out of the office etc.

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