PwC boosts flexibility with denim in dress guidelines

Goodbye bow ties and hello blue jeans.

A few weeks after Starbucks announced it was loosening its dress code to include patterns, tattoos and piercings, PricewaterhouseCoopers has updated its dress guidelines to include denim for all levels of staff.

“We’re trying to make work feel like a second home,” says Penny Partridge, the firm’s human capital leader in Toronto. “This [guideline] was one of those ways we could have for people to really try and express themselves, and be more authentic to who they are. We joke about this — we hire very smart people but then we tell them how to dress.”

Read: Employees would give up perks and pay for work-life balance: survey

While ripped jeans and offensive logos are still verboten — it’s essential to still show respect for clients and colleagues — the guidelines don’t mention tattoos or piercings.

Flexibility at the firm extends beyond what you can wear to work. PwC’s flexible time away program lets staff take time off after they use up their vacation days.

“It’s not fully unpaid — they do get a little bit of an incentive,” Partridge says. “So it’s anywhere, depending on your level, from $500 to $1,000 per week. There’s a premium in there that we give them to try and help them while they’re off.”

Read: U.S. financial workers most likely to work from home, statistics show

Depending on their business unit, employees may request as much time off as they’d like or it might be capped at 12 weeks. Benefits continue during the extra time off, and staff can choose to keep contributing to their pension plans.

“If you think about some of the businesses we work in, like audits, [they] are a bit cyclical, right?” Partridge says. “They tend to be busier around November through March. So it’s sort of a win-win: when people are taking their time off, you’re no longer paying their full salary, so it actually saves the business money… So it’s like a perfect blend.”

More employees in corporate services take advantage of flexible work options — staff can also adjust their start and end times, and work longer hours to get an extra day off — than those working in client-facing roles, Partridge notes.

Read: 75% of global employers offer flexible working

“We want to make sure we’re meeting those clients’ needs,” she says. Nevertheless, PwC’s clients are often working at less traditional times and places as well. “It used to be very much the mentality that if the client doesn’t see you, they don’t think you’re working, so be in their sight every two seconds. That has certainly changed. A lot of our clients also work from home two days a week. So us doing that a little bit more doesn’t seem to be surprising for them.”

While PwC’s millennial staff are big flexible work fans, Partridge says some senior employees take more time off. But sometimes it can be a struggle. A PwC partner once told Partridge that he noticed his employees, who want to work from home, are still coming into the office every day.

“So I said to him: ‘But you’re the leader,’” Partridge says. “‘So sometimes leadership’s about being uncomfortable. Sometimes, your staff’s not going to do things unless they see you role modeling it. So why don’t you try one day a week to work from home and see if they then get the message that it’s OK.’”

Read: How Cisco makes flexible schedules work