| 16 April 2024, Tuesday |

Businesses are not expected to return to normal until 2022, new KPMG study finds

Nearly 50 per cent of global chief executives do not expect businesses to return to normal until “some time” in 2022, according to a new study by accounting firm KPMG.

This compares with 31 per cent of chief executives who anticipate that businesses will return to normal later this year, KPMG said in its 2021 KPMG CEO Outlook pulse report.

The survey was conducted in February and March this year and asked 500 global chief executives about their response to the pandemic and their outlook over a three-year horizon.

Fifty-five per cent respondents said they are concerned about employees’ access to a Covid-19 vaccine, which is influencing their outlook as to when employees will return to the workplace, while 90 per cent were considering asking staff to report for duty after they are vaccinated, the survey added.

However, 34 per cent are worried about misinformation on Covid-19 vaccine safety and the potential this may have on employees choosing not to get vaccinated.

“Before any major decisions are made, chief executives want to be confident that their workforce is protected against this virus,” said Bill Thomas, global chairman and chief executive of KPMG.

“The Covid-19 vaccine rollout is providing leaders with a dose of optimism as they prepare for a new reality. CEOs are scenario planning certain key markets that may experience vaccine shortages that could impact their operations, supply chains and people, leading to uneven economic recovery.”

A number of countries across the globe have stepped up vaccination campaigns to reduce coronavirus infections. As of Saturday, more than 869 million doses have been administered across 155 countries, according to data collected by Bloomberg.

The KPMG survey also found that only 30 per cent of global executives are considering a hybrid working model for their staff, in which they would work remotely for two to three days a week. As a result, just 21 per cent of businesses are looking to hire talent that predominantly works remotely – a significant shift from last year, when 73 per cent of firms hired talent to work from home.

During the Covid-19 movement restrictions, remote working became the norm, which posed new data security risks to organisations. As a result, global business leaders identified cyber security as the top concern impacting their growth and operations over a three-year period, the survey said. Cyber security was named ahead of regulatory, tax and supply chain concerns.

“Workforce retention was the primary concern for the chief executives in our previous pulse survey, ” Karen Watts, a partner for quality and risk and head of corporate affairs, said.

“However, this quarter’s findings indicate that CEOs have overcome this challenge and workforce retention is not among the top five concerns for CEOs. This transformation was possible because executives around the world focused on employee safety more than financial growth.”

Meanwhile, the survey also found that environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) is a priority for businesses around the world.

With the upcoming Cop26 meeting in Glasgow in November and the US re-joining the Paris Accord, 49 per cent of respondents plan to put in place more stringent ESG practices, while 89 per cent will focus on locking in the sustainability and climate change gains their companies made as a result of the pandemic.

Ninety-six per cent of global executives are looking to increase their focus towards the social component of the ESG programmes, the report said.

“The pandemic has also been a catalyst for CEOs to evaluate the role their companies play in society,” Ms Watts said.

“Today, many CEOs are talking about issues they may not have previously commented on publicly – from tackling climate change to supporting the diverse communities in which they operate.”