Almost nine out of 10 CEOs in the UK expect a permanent shift to more remote working following the COVID-19 crisis, a survey by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) has found.
The findings also show that the pandemic is driving a significant change in business models, with over three-quarters of CEOs believing that the crisis has accelerated a shift towards automation.
PwC said that the virus has given businesses “a licence to change” after also finding that a quarter are now prioritising digital adoption, and that 15% are focusing on offering virtual products and services.
“While a large majority of CEOs believe COVID-19 has accelerated a long-term shift to more remote working, a blend of office and home working is most likely to be the future norm,” said PwC chairman Kevin Ellis.
“Automation will continue, but the pandemic has highlighted the inherently human skills that artificial intelligence cannot mimic, such as resilience, adaptability, empathy, creativity and critical thinking.”
The survey findings also show that 15% of UK CEOs are increasing their share of remote or contingent workers, but that 13% plan to decrease their employee headcount.
Nine in 10 said that they are prioritising their staff's health and safety in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, with a similar proportion conducting well-being initiatives.
Almost half have contributed resources – financial, volunteers or essential goods – to response efforts, and more than half said coronavirus has accelerated efforts to tackle climate change.
Around two-thirds of CEOs expect the economy to decline over the next 12 months, but almost the same amount are confident about their company's growth prospects.
“The crisis has given CEOs the mandate to rethink and reinvent how they work,” said Marco Amitrano, head of clients and markets at PwC UK.
“The dramatic acceleration of trends around digital transformation and remote and flexible working means CEOs can now embed changes that otherwise may have taken a decade or more to happen.”
Author: Chris Seekings
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