KPMG launches relaxed work policies to combat remote work fatigue

While the stress of a year (and counting) of remote work has undoubtedly been anxiety-provoking for the accounting profession, a significant number of firm leaders have taken the unique opportunity presented to them to reassess workplace practices and introduce new policies to help staff work more efficiently.

Big Four firm KPMG has joined these efforts by utilizing staff feedback during the pandemic to debut new work policies that decrease work-related stress.

“Since the start of the pandemic, the firm has employed a continuous listening approach, using regular experience surveys and other feedback channels to stay connected with people and better understand the challenges they’re facing and support they need,” Darren Burton, vice chair of human resources at KPMG, told Accounting Today. “Recent survey feedback showed that our employees, like so many other workforces across the globe, continue to face challenges around well-being and resilience. In response, we decided to immediately implement these small, but impactful changes in the hope that we can better support our people to disconnect, recharge and manage stress.”

While these policies are not formal, Burton said that “people can make these changes the rule versus the exception, but we recognize there are circumstances when that may not be possible.”

Some new policies include:

  • “Heads-down” time: The firm has blocked off every Wednesday, from 2:00 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. ET, to focus exclusively on work. Non-essential meetings are discouraged during this time.
  • Camera-free Fridays: Voice-only meetings are encouraged every Friday, with the aim of creating a “more relaxed transition into the weekend” by not requiring staff to appear on camera.
  • Shorter meetings: In an effort to curb back-to-back meetings and make more work time available throughout the day, KPMG changed the regular 30- and 60-minute blocks designed for meetings to 25 and 50 minutes, respectively.
  • Morning prep time: The firm is discouraging early morning meetings to give staff more time to prepare for their workdays. KPMG set the availability window on staff’s calendars back one hour.

“So far, the early reaction has been very positive,” Burton said. “These changes are still so new for us, so all of the feedback is anecdotal at this stage. Next month, we plan to survey people about their experience … to ensure that the changes are working as intended and we want to be open to any adjustments that need to be taken as we move forward.”

The offices of KPMG in Chicago

TANNEN MAURY`/BLOOMBERG NEWS