Tuesday 23 March 2021 12:01 am

Half of CEOs don't expect a return to normal this year, but the push to embrace remote working stalls

Almost half of global CEOs do not expect a return to ‘normal’ until next year, according to research by KPMG.

The Big Four accountant’s CEO Outlook Pulse Survey found 31 per cent expect to be returning to business as usual this year, but 45 per cent of global executives think we will have to wait until 2022.

The move back to the office has dictated many people’s return to normality, which has been dependant on a successful vaccine rollout. 

Once more than half of the population is vaccinated, 61 per cent of chief executives will be looking to make the return to office-based work. 

When employees can return to workplaces safely, a fifth of companies have said they will seek vaccination status from clients and visitors as a precautionary measure. 

“Before any major decisions are made, CEOs want to be confident that their workforce is protected against this virus. The Covid-19 vaccine rollout is providing leaders with a dose of optimism as they prepare for a new normal,” KPMG global chairman and CEO, Bill Thomas, explained. 

In August last year, 69 per cent of CEOs had planned to reduce their office space over the next three years. 

The vaccine rollout has seemingly interrupted this move, as only 17 per cent of executives are now looking to downsize.

However, 14 per cent said that they will be considering more flexible working options, like working from home. 

Remote working

Global executives remain apprehensive about a fully remote workforce, as only a fifth of businesses are looking to hire primarily remote workers – another considerable slide from 73 per cent last year. 

“After steering their businesses through a year dominated by the pandemic, CEOs are shifting their plans from survival to revival,” interim chief executive at KPMG UK, Mary O’Connor, said.

“While significant concern remains around the future performance about the global economy, most feel confident about the prospects for their own business.”

The study, which surveyed 500 global CEOs in February and March this year, also found that remote working has increased data security risks. 

Cybersecurity has become a key area of investment for 52 per cent of CEOs this year. 

The upcoming COP26, hosted by the UK, has also pushed 49 per cent of CEOs to establish better ESG practises.

96 per cent reported their ambitions to strengthen their focus on the social component of their ESG programs, while 89 per cent will secure their sustainability and climate change improvements.

As the world begins to open up once more, there is an opportunity for businesses to really demonstrate their commitment to reducing their environmental impact as they make long-lasting changes to their operations,” O’Conner added.