Business Leaders’ Expectations On COVID-19’s Impact Leveling Off

As businesses reopen, a PwC survey found that chief financial officers are coming to terms with a new business environment of lower anticipated revenues and reconfigured workplaces. PwC’s fifth COVID-19 CFO Pulse Survey found that 55 percent of CFO respondents say they are projecting revenue/profit losses to be greater than 10 percent this year. This figure is up only two percentage points from two weeks prior, which PwC suggests means worries about more severe revenue losses are starting to level off. Similarly, expectations of layoffs seem to be holding steady with 31 percent of CFOs anticipating layoffs in the next month, a one percentage point drop from two weeks ago.

PwC suggests that the survey findings indicate that the urgency to reduce expenditures and cut costs is also diminishing. While 80 percent of CFO respondents are considering cost containment measures, this figure is actually down from 86 percent two weeks ago. In addition, fewer CFOs are anticipating furloughs over the next month (36 percent vs. 44 percent two weeks ago).

Another bright spot in the survey is the growing confidence among businesses in their ability to protect their workers. In fact, nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of survey respondents are “very confident” their company can help create a safe workplace environment for employees. In addition, 83 percent of respondents anticipate changing workplace safety measures, up six points from two weeks prior, and 43 percent anticipate making remote work a permanent solution for roles that can accommodate it.

However, employers are still likely to face a host of employee concerns about returning to the workplace. For example, PwC surveyed more than 1,100 American workers the week of May 4. Among those surveyed, 39 percent were forced to work remotely or stop working altogether (but are still getting paid). Within this group, over half (51 percent) say that the fear of getting COVID-19 would prevent them from going back to the workplace if their employer asked. In addition, nearly a quarter (24 percent) are unwilling to use public transportation for their commute, and 21 percent cite their responsibility as a parent or caregiver as a reason preventing them from going back to the workplace.

“Given the unprecedented nature of this global pandemic, it is clear that workers are very worried about being able to stay healthy and safe as they are asked to return to their offices and worksites,” says Tim Ryan, PwC's U.S. chair and senior partner. "The most important thing business leaders can do to address their employees’ worries is to communicate frequently and transparently about how they are working behind the scenes to keep them safe, healthy and employed.”

Amity Millhiser, PwC's chief clients officer, adds, “As more companies reopen, CFOs are coming to terms with a new reality and managing their expectations accordingly. We are seeing many leaders begin to pull back from drastic cost containment measures as they figure out how to operationalize their businesses in a new environment that must take into consideration the calculated risks of operating during this crisis. While their worries are leveling off, this could all change if there is a future spike in infections.”

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