As states begin to lift stay-at-home orders and reopen local businesses, many financial leaders are anticipating major modifications to the workplace in the face of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic — but a majority of them believe companies can return to normalcy as soon as this summer.
A recent survey by PricewaterhouseCoopers found that just more than half (52%) of chief financial officers in the United States expect that their companies can go back to normal in less than three months, provided that the COVID-19 crisis ends immediately. Another near-half (49%) predicts that remote work can be made a permanent option for certain roles.
“While business leaders begin to forge strategies to bring employees back into the workplace and to engage with their customers in person, they are realizing that the physical workplace and customer experience will be drastically different from before the COVID-19 pandemic,” added chief clients officer Amity Millhiser. “Many of them are turning to new technologies and digital solutions to help them adapt and maintain social distancing, which will likely be a new normal for the foreseeable future.”
According to PwC, 77% of CFOs forecast that safety measures in offices will change upon their return to work. Among the survey’s 305 respondents, 65% expect alterations to the configurations of site layouts to promote social distancing, and 52% predict shifts will be rotated to reduce exposure to potential illnesses.
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Beyond anticipating a higher demand for employee protection, a majority of financial leaders agree that the impact of the outbreak to businesses will remain a top concern: According to the survey, 32% of executives are now forecasting layoffs — up 6 percentage points from two weeks ago — and more than half (53%) project revenue or profit losses to be greater than 10% this year.
To mitigate that fallout, about 70% of CFOs have considered deferring or canceling planned investments, while 86% have assessed whether they would implement cost-containment strategies. An overwhelming 91% of respondents added that they had plans to include a discussion of COVID-19 in upcoming external reports.
“As some states look to reopen, business leaders are recognizing they not only play a crucial role in the health, safety, and stability of their employees, but also that of their communities,” said U.S. chair and senior partner Tim Ryan. “As we continue to navigate this crisis, I’m encouraged to see that despite difficult decisions and potential profit losses, business leaders are continuing to do what they can to put their people first and, in turn, help support local communities and economies as the nation looks to rebound.”