Businesses become more positive on post-Covid future

15 December 2020 Consultancy.uk
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Eden McCallum has released a new update for its Covid-19 survey series, revealing how the sentiment of European business leaders has changed over the course of 2020s lockdowns. While fears of a protracted economic impact from the crisis have eased among bosses, many believe their employees communication, collaboration and motivation are being negatively impacted by the continued pandemic.

Despite the massive dent the Covid-19 pandemic will leave in the UK’s economy – whenever it actually ends – and the fact that the UK’s Brexit negotiations once again being on the rocks, certain sectors have fared well over the past year, such as technology. As the discovery of a Covid-19 vaccine hints that at least one of these crises drawing to a close in the coming year, the short-term sentiment of many business leaders seems to be improving.

According to a new study from Eden McCallum, optimism about a recovery in performance has picked up quite sharply. Of 200 UK and international business leaders polled, while 62% of respondents in September thought that a return to “normal” trading was still over a year away, that has now dropped to 40%. At the same time, while in September 48% of businesses expected a fall in 2020 revenue of over 20%, now 37% hold that view.

Expected decrease in revenue + Return to normal

While a majority of respondents have already or plan to make staff redundant, meanwhile, sentiment regarding job security has also improved. Around 56% of respondents said they had announced or were planning to announce redundancies, but this is a decrease from September, when the equivalent figure was 70%, or earlier in May, when the figure stood at 60%.

However, leaders are less upbeat when it comes to their perceptions of their workforce. According to the bosses polled, many have seen steep declines in company morale in recent months. While the continued threat of imminent redundancies might not be putting many workers in a good mood, the business leaders polled by Eden McCallum remained convinced that it was remote working that had driven a fall in motivation at their firms.

Since May, business leaders reported that remote working had seen a 34% decline in motivation, a 35% decline in communication and a 47% fall in collaboration – standing in stark contrast to the more positive impact they perceived earlier in the year. Only on the questions of work-life balance and productivity do respondents find a positive impact of widespread working from home – although it is something of a conflict to assert that workers are majorly inhibited in their communication, collaboration and motivation by remote work when their productivity still seems to have improved.

Impact of remote working six months later + Impact of remote working others vs self

Sara Ghazi-Tabatabai, an Associate Partner at Eden McCallum, said, “It is encouraging to see some light appearing at the end of the Covid-19 tunnel. Some of the most negative trends – such as expectations about redundancies, revenue decline and time to return to ‘normal’ – are improving after months of decline.”

Interestingly, bosses are more positive about the impact of remote working on themselves personally – suggesting they have been 20% more productive than their counterparts, while their mental health has only taken a fraction of the impact they assert their staff have suffered. While the improvements to work-life balance must surely have had some improvement for workers if it has for their leaders, respondents of the survey do not seem to believe such a link exists.

While it is impossible to say for sure what exactly is fostering this divide, one of the persisting worries among many business leaders is not that productivity drops, but that it becomes harder to subject their activities to the panopticon of surveillance that is common-place in office life. For that reason, business leaders might well be happier to continue working remotely without being concerned by their mental health, but also be keen for office life to return for their staff.