The Reality Of Working For The Big 4

I came to PwC as a Director, with my primary client as PwC itself. I didn’t get an office or a permanent desk, even though my work was internal and I traveled only infrequently to other PwC offices in New York and Atlanta. Having to reserve a space and be told nothing was available was one of the great irritants of my days there and one of the reasons why I often worked at home, a condo that was only two blocks from the office. Not surprisingly, I never got to know most of my local colleagues.
Penny wise, dollar foolish. Rather than save money on office space, maybe they should try to stem the losses from lawsuits…
Book your desk now – spaces are limited
‘Hotelling’ makes a comeback in major cities as companies seek to save money on valuable office real estate

Arriving at the office on his first day as a consultant at PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, Tom Broen felt he’d been misled. It wasn’t the work or the upper five-figure salary that upset him. But after five years of experience, he thought he was senior enough to qualify for his own desk.

“They cleverly omitted that detail when I applied for the job,” he says from his home in downtown Toronto. “The managers and higher had their own desks, but junior people did not.”

Mr. Broen had just been introduced to “hotelling”, in which rather than having designated desks, staff are assigned a spot daily according to space availability. Each morning, Mr. Broen would key in his employee number and a computerized system would decide the floor and position where he would work for the day.

Hotelling saves on desk and office space, he explains, but it soon became a bone of contention among some employees.

“It made people feel like they were disposable,” says Mr. Broen, who has since changed companies. “It was one of those weird things in a company that everyone understood was stupid, but you didn’t really have a sense that it was going to change.”

…Some employees don’t mind the loss of structure. Lindsay Freeman, a KPMG senior accountant, says she enjoys the sense of transience. Since hoteliers have to clean their desks at the end of each workday, she finds it makes her more organized. Other hoteliers have found ways to circumvent the system. Nahuel Arruda, an analyst who has worked for Deloitte & Touche for almost a year, is technically supposed to move desks according to space availability. But during his tenure, he has managed to stay put. To avoid shifting desks, he books his current space by computer a few days ahead of time, or leaves his desk slightly messy so others won’t want to work there. It’s worthwhile, he says. “If I had to move, I’d probably end up on another floor, and it would be really inconvenient going up and down in the elevator all the time.”

5 replies
  1. NYC Staffer
    NYC Staffer says:

    I completely agree that hoteling has some benefits and flaws, but mostly flaws. From uncertainty of work space availability to conflicts over reservations. And the problems aren’t even just with hoteling at the office, but also with workspace provided at client sites! I’m on a 40+ person engagement team. The space provided to us is literally enough office space for 10 people max. Yeah, we all have a “desk” to come in to each day….that desk being a folding table shared by 8 other people…I know this isn’t really adding to the discussion on hoteling, but hey, its busy season, i can b&tch right? All i know is 100 times more productive when i’m in a comfortable, regular, work environment.

  2. says:

    Hoteling isn’t just a Big Four thing. I’m lucky enough to have my own desk, and one that faces the window at that. But the co-ops have to find their own work space every day, if they’re in the office that is.

  3. Tracy Coenen
    Tracy Coenen says:

    Ten years ago at Arthur Andersen, we had the same deal. Come in and hope there was a desk available. You weren’t guaranteed a desk, especially if it was not busy season and most were in the office.

    I understand wanting to save precious square footage. But I bet a lot of people would be happier with a smaller permanent desk. There’s got to be some middle ground here.

  4. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    Hotelling is only logical. In any one quarter I only expect myself to be in the office for about 5 days. Though it would be great to be able to stick up a calendar and photos to declare it my own space, but I would only see it some 20 days broken up during the year. If people can tidy up after using hotelling desks and arrangement are made when more staff than usual are required in the office, the system works fine.

  5. Time Served
    Time Served says:

    hotelling is fine for audit/IT people. they’re rarely in the office, don’t carry a lot of stuff, etc. but for tax consulting/compliance, especially folks starting out, you spend a lot of time in the office. it makes no sense that you have to reserve your spot or clean your desk when you’re there 80% of the time. as usual this is an HR idea just rolled out without really being tested. looked great on paper, hated by the employees. but HR has to keep churning out ideas and buzzwords lest someone figure out they’re useless. what’s funny is that both of their products are indeed useless. I also like “going green” that’s happening right now. how convenient that “going green” is used to mask making budget cuts for the sake of precious mother earth. she wasn’t very important in 2007, but she’s so hot right now.

Comments are closed.