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CEOs Say They’ll Hire More Contract Workers and Fewer Permanent Staff After COVID-19 — Why That’s a Big Deal

More than six months since the coronavirus pandemic started ravaging countries around the world, global CEOS are beginning to carve out a clearer picture of their post-pandemic organizations.

In a survey of more than 1,300 CEOs and c-suite execs released today, The Conference Board found that most global leaders expect to emerge from the COVID-19 health crisis using more contract workers and fewer permanent staff. Top executives also anticipate a reduction in business travel in favor of more videoconferencing. As more firms and consumers pivot to digital shopping and other experiences — either in accordance with stay-at-home orders or out of fear of contracting the virus by heading outdoors — business leaders say the crisis is accelerating their digital transformations, and will continue to bolster such shifts for the long term.

All told, organizations are hoping to exit the pandemic “leaner and more agile, redefining how work gets done,” explained, Chuck Mitchell, one of the report’s authors and director of Knowledge, Content, and Quality at The Conference Board,

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“In the short term, preparing for growth and recovery will require finding the right balance between conserving cash and investing in the innovations needed to succeed in a new commercial landscape — the next normal, if you will,” he added.

Overall, CEOs see a return to pre-pandemic revenue levels at least a year or more away. More than 40% predict a U-shaped recovery, with more sustainable growth resuming by Q4 2020. Meanwhile, about a third expect an L-shaped recovery, with sustained growth resuming in late 2021.

By region, chief executives in Europe are the most optimistic of the bunch, with 55% of CEOs there envisioning a U-shaped recovery as the most likely scenario. For the United States and China, a little more than 40% of business leaders in either country anticipate a U-shaped recovery.

“While business leaders are navigating through the many disruptions and uncertainties brought on by the global pandemic, they are focusing on shaping long-term growth strategies in a post-pandemic world,” said Ataman Ozyildirim, a report author and global research chair of The Conference Board. “Even though they expect their business revenues to recover slowly and not fully before the end of 2021, their focus on accelerating digital transformation and innovating new business models to serve their customers could lay the ground work for a sustainable growth path in the longer term.”

While the outlook from leading execs around the world seems generally upbeat, the fallout from the coronavirus for workers remains great. Just today, the U.S. Department of Labor noted that more than 1.43 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits in the week ended July 25. It marked the second consecutive week that the number of applications has increased and the 19th week in a row that the country has recorded more than a million jobless filings.

A move to more contract work could spell ongoing challenges for many who may be struggling with health care costs and other challenges that could be aided by employee benefit programs, which aren’t often available to part-time and contract workers.

What’s more, an increase in U.S. jobless claims also comes a day before millions of people in the U.S. will no longer be able to take home an additional $600 a week in benefits on top of what they get from their state, which averaged about $372 a week at the end of February. The funding, which is part of the $2.2 trillion Coronavirus Aid Response and Economic Security Act, or CARES Act, was introduced at the end of March.

A follow-up measure, called CARES Act 2, was proposed by Senate Republicans early this week and is set to go up for debate in the Democrat-led House of Representatives.

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