Business leaders around the world have been making moves to protect their employees with their COVID-19 response, with UK CEOs leading the pack on mental wellbeing support.
Almost a quarter (24%) of UK CEOs provided additional financial support to employees, according to a new survey of business leaders by accountancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC).
Alongside this, 15% of UK CEOs have sourced and/or manufactured medical supplies for their businesses (compared with 13% of CEOs globally), while nearly half (49%) contributed resources such as volunteers or essential goods to helping during the pandemic. This was compared with 42% of CEOs globally.
UK CEOs were found to have been significantly more focused on their employees’ mental wellbeing than their global counterparts, with 90% providing wellbeing support and initiatives, compared with 61% of CEOs globally.
Some 93% of UK CEOs prioritised protecting employee health and safety over everything else.
Kevin Ellis, chairman and senior partner at PwC UK, said: “Alongside the devastating humanitarian impact, COVID-19 has created some of the greatest challenges faced by business for generations.
“Against this backdrop, our survey suggests that UK businesses are ahead of the pack in recognising the toll the pandemic is having on their workforce.
“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.”
The findings of the survey also show that the pandemic has rapidly increased the adoption of digital working practices and is driving significant changes to business models, many of which CEOs expect to become the new normal.
Almost nine in 10 UK CEOs (86%) see a permanent shift towards more remote working and over three quarters of UK CEOs (77%) believe COVID-19 has accelerated an enduring shift from traditional human labour to automation.
Kevin Ellis, chairman and senior partner, PwC UK, added: “While a large majority of UK and global CEOs believe COVID-19 has accelerated a long-term shift to more remote working, a blend of office and home working is most likely to be the future norm.
“Automation will continue, but the pandemic has highlighted the inherently human skills that AI cannot mimic, such as resilience, adaptability, empathy, creativity and critical thinking.
“Our findings further reinforce the need to ensure that government, business, local enterprise bodies, trade groups, schools and colleges work together to deal with the acute skills challenge.”
Of those surveyed, almost two-thirds of UK CEOs (69%) predict a decline for the global economy, in line with the global view. They are, however, more bullish about their own revenue growth prospects, although there is a 7% drop from PwC’s 23rd CEO Survey, published in January, which was already the lowest result for six years.