A global survey has revealed that nearly half of company executives don’t expect to see a return to a ‘normal’ course of business until sometime in 2022. But there has been a steep decline in the appetite of CEOs to downsize their companies’ physical footprints as they reconsider the need for in-person business to resume when countries emerge from the pandemic.
The 2021 KPMG CEO Outlook Pulse Survey, conducted in March and February, asked 500 global CEOs about their response to the pandemic and the outlook over a three-year horizon. It found that the changes prompted by the pandemic resulted in 24% of CEOs saying that their business model has been changed forever. Almost half (45%) do not expect to see a return to a ‘normal’ business until sometime in 2022, as opposed to 31 percent who anticipate this will happen later this year.
Only 17% are looking to downsize their office space as a result of the pandemic.
Three-quarters (76%) of CEOs see government encouragement for businesses to return to ‘normal’ as the prompt for businesses to ask staff to return to the workplace. And a significant majority (90%) are considering asking employees to report when they have been vaccinated, which may help organisations consider measures to protect their workforce. In addition, 61 percent of global executives said that they will also need to see a successful (over 50 percent of the population vaccinated) COVID-19 vaccine rollout in key markets before taking any action toward a return to offices.
The survey has also highlighted that CEOs are less likely to downsize physical footprint compared to six months ago. Only 17% are looking to downsize their office space as a result of the pandemic. This is in contrast to the 69% of CEOs surveyed in August 2020 who said they planned to reduce their office space over three years. This demonstrates that either office downsizings have taken place or, as the pandemic has drawn on, strategies have changed.
21% of businesses are looking to hire talent that works predominantly remotely.
Global executives also remain apprehensive about a fully remote workforce. In a post Covid world, only three in 10 are considering a hybrid model of working for their staff, where most employees work remotely two to three days a week. As a result, 21% of businesses are looking to hire talent that works predominantly remotely, which is a significant shift from last year.
Bill Thomas, Global Chairman and CEO of KPMG International, commented: “There has been a noticeable drop in the appetite by corporate leaders to make wholesale changes to how employees work, post-pandemic. The COVID-19 crisis has accelerated future of work trends, but many global leaders are taking a more measured approach before making concrete decisions. In many parts of the world, we’ve gone a year or more without in-person human interaction and it’s clear that CEOs — as well as their teams — are looking forward to being reunited.”
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About the survey
The KPMG 2021 CEO Outlook Pulse Survey surveyed 500 CEOs from 11 key markets (Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Spain, the UK and the US) between 29 January and 4 March 2021. All respondents have annual revenues greater than US$500M and 35% of the companies surveyed have more than US$10B in annual revenue.
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