Brussels, 19 May 2020 - The potential for the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak to lead to the workforce productivity to be adversely impacted, is one of the top concerns of Belgian CFOs, according to the latest PwC Belgium CFO Pulse Survey. About one in three say productivity is dipping due to a lack of remote work capabilities. Separation of the workforce, or layoffs, is considered a last resort.
To help identify the business and economic impact of COVID-19, PwC is conducting a survey of finance leaders globally, amongst which 10 were interviewed in Belgium.
When asked about the impact on the workforce over the next month, about 30% of Belgian respondents expect productivity losses due to the lack of remote work capabilities. This compares with 60% of their counterparts in the US. The shift to remote work can be bigger than many companies realize, and productivity impacts are possible in the short term as teams learn how to collaborate and connect in new ways, while dealing with personal and family well-being matters.
The findings show expectations that the virus will affect the workforce in many ways over the next month. Just under one-third (30%) anticipate higher demand for employee protections, such as expanded sick leave or benefits, over the next month. Moreover, nearly one-third (32%) of Belgian respondents expect layoffs.
60% of Belgian respondents say the outbreak has the potential for “significant” impact to their business operations, while just 30% say the impact has been limited to specific regions, but they are monitoring developments closely.
Companies are prioritizing workforce health and safety, while ramping up remote working capabilities to keep people connected securely, and to keep projects documented and moving forward. The crisis is revealing immediate infrastructure gaps for many businesses, in areas such as digital upskilling, bandwidth and cybersecurity limitations, and that’s likely to increase investments in digital transformation.
When asked about expectations for the next month, one in five finance leaders expect to face insufficient staffing, resulting in an inability to get critical work done. In addition, 40% expect temporary furloughs, and 20% expect layoffs.
Sandrine Schaumont, Partner at PwC Belgium: “With organisations slowly starting to prepare for their exit strategies, they should bear in mind that a new mindset will undoubtedly enter the workplace in the post-Covid 19 world. It is very likely that the ‘new normal’ will include a shift in preferences for both employees as employers. Think about the expectation of a more virtual workplace, with a greater emphasis on flexibility. Moreover, remote working looks set to stimulate more rapid and widespread digital upskilling. People now have had to adopt technologies in order to work effectively because they simply had no other choice. The shift to this new normal will present both advantages as challenges that organisations should start preparing for.”
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