• 18 August 2020
  • Accountancy

Post Covid, will employee wellbeing be the new priority?

According to an extensive survey of CEOs by PwC, the pandemic has triggered a revolution in how businesses are run - and the change could be for the better.

#employeeengagement 

Over the last few years, much has been written about remote working, employee engagement and wellbeing, but did much really change? It took a dreadful pandemic to kick-start the work revolution, complete with home working, Zoom meetings and virtual networking.

According to the Office of National Statistics, of those who did some work from home, 86% did so as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

As offices start to re-open, will anything really have changed though? Will we just look back on 2020 as that mad year when the trains stopped, holidays were cancelled and everyone stayed at home? 

Not according to an extensive survey of CEOs (699 CEOs in 67 countries/regions) by PwC, during June and July 2020. The responses showed that leaders, especially UK CEOs, are ready to embrace change - and for the long term.

Inevitably, the CEOs expressed concern about the global economy, yet they generally remained confident about the future of their own businesses. 69% of UK CEOs expect the economy to decline over the next 12 months, yet 63% are confident about their own company's growth prospects. Presumably, many see the recession as being something that happens to other companies, not their own!

The most revealing figures can be found away from the crystal ball gazing, particularly the immediate impact on wellbeing and remote working. An impressive 90% of UK CEOs stated that they are conducting wellbeing initiatives (compared to 61% globally).

Kevin Ellis, Chairman and Senior Partner at PwC UK, commented, “While there are many difficult decisions for business to make in the short and medium term, it’s critical we continue to invest in health and wellbeing to protect the workforce of the future. Leaders recognise the importance of a healthy and motivated workforce and that investing in employees is key to economic recovery.”

"Leaders recognise the importance of a healthy and motivated workforce and that investing in employees is key to economic recovery.” Kevin Ellis, Chairman and Senior Partner at PwC UK

The UK responses are more in line with the rest of the world when it comes to remote working and automation. 

  • 86% of UK CEOs believe the shift towards remote collaboration will endure (78% globally).
  • 77% believe there will be an enduring shift towards increased automation (76% globally).
  • 59% of UK CEOs have the digital transformation of core business operations and processes as a top three priority (61% globally).

Marco Amitrano, Head of Clients and Markets, PwC UK notes that the pandemic has rapidly increased the change in working patterns: “The crisis has given CEOs the mandate to rethink and reinvent how they work. 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.”

Gartner research

 

The PwC findings are supported by Gartner, the global research and advisory company. 

A recent Gartner poll showed that 48% of employees will likely work remotely at least part of the time after COVID-19 versus 30% before the pandemic.

Gartner also asserts that, “The pandemic has increased the trend of employers playing an expanded role in their employees’ financial, physical and mental well-being. Support includes enhanced sick leave, financial assistance, adjusted hours of operation and child care provisions.”

There is an important caveat in the employee wellbeing and engagement numbers, in that this reflects how retained employees are being looked after. 

Sadly many have lost jobs during the pandemic and the immediate focus has to be on reinvigorating the economy and getting everyone back into work

Hopefully, the economy will bounce back soon. Either way, it appears that the pandemic has ushered in a fundamental shift in how we work and the trends represent a sea change in how businesses interact with their employees. 

If employee engagement and wellbeing can be continue to be enhanced, then at least one good thing may emerge from this destructive virus.

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David Waddell is Managing Director at Harvey John.

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