Post-Covid Changes are Permanent and There are More to Come
The need for business leaders and policy makers to fundamentally rethink the way they plan, invest and operate in the future is underlined in a new survey of 699 global CEOs released by PwC. The survey shows the majority of CEOs believe that COVID-19 pandemic driven shifts towards remote collaboration (78%), automation (76%) and fewer people working from offices (61%), are here to stay. Overall, 61% say their business model will be more digital in the future - a change accelerated by the pandemic.
Responses show digital infrastructure, flexible working and employee well-being will top their boardroom agendas as they reconfigure business operations to secure growth in the next 12 months and beyond. 58% of CEOs say ensuring supply chain safety will remain a focus, driving technology investments to enable tracking of products from production to delivery, and to ensure their suppliers and partners are resilient during crises.
In a challenge to decades of increased globalisation, almost two in five (39%) of CEOs believe there will be a permanent shift towards onshoring and insourcing, and a similar share expect an enduring increase in nationalism. CEOs are naturally cautious on their own revenue growth prospects in the year ahead (45% somewhat confident, 15% very confident). 65% are predicting a decline in global growth. Concern about the global economy is highest in Africa, Central & Eastern Europe, Asia and Latin America.
Business leaders also believe the pandemic increased the importance of responding to a wider range of stakeholder issues, particularly employees. Employee support measures included health and safety (92%), well-being (61%) and financial support (24%). Forty-two percent made contributions to community organisations and almost a third (32%) of business leaders reduced their own pay. Those CEOs who maximised retention (36%) and protected employee health and safety (92%) believe it will have a positive impact on their organisation’s long-term reputation.
The changes driven by COVID-19 add significantly to an already full agenda for CEOs. Climate change remains an influential trend for consumers and businesses alike. When asked if the shift to climate change mitigation would endure, the majority of business leaders (47%) said it would. Business leaders believe short term increases in disposables (including sanitizers, masks) and decreases in the use of the sharing economy would only be temporary.
While the majority of CEOs (61%) believe that there will be lower workplace density than before, they remain divided about what role cities will play in the future: 34% believe the shift towards de-urbanisation will continue; 38% believing it is temporary. Business leaders are not expecting extended government support, with the majority (57%) believing state intervention to be a temporary feature, despite the potential for governments to use the support to influence COVID-19 recovery and policies impacting business. Less than one in three (30%) believe government support will be sustained, despite a gloomy outlook for global and organisational growth prospects in the next 12 months. One in five respondents say they declined government backed support for their business during the pandemic.