The PwC CFO Survey Series: Workforce 2.0

PwC asked CFOs in Belgium to weigh in on the ways in which the current crisis is impacting their workforce and their plans for a post-COVID-19 world.

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The PwC CFO Survey Series

The fallout from the current economic crisis brought on by COVID-19 is being felt around the world. To gauge the impact on Belgian companies, we’ve launched the PwC CFO Survey Series, consisting of periodic surveys on the effects of the crisis on finance, operations, workforce, supply chains and more. 

Survey 4: Workforce 2.0

The fourth edition of the CFO Survey Series explores the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on the workforce. PwC asked 28 CFOs of large corporates in Belgium across a variety of sectors to weigh in on ways in which the crisis is affecting the workforce, and their plans and predictions for a post-COVID-19 world.

The fourth edition of the CFO Survey Series explores the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on the workforce

CFO Survey Series barometer questions

Each edition of the PwC CFO Survey Series begins with two barometer questions to gauge CFOs’ predictions about the Belgian economy and company revenues over the course of the surveys. 

CFOs in Belgium predict an economic downturn, but stable revenues

In the latest survey, 57% of CFOs expect Belgian economic growth to decline over the next 12 months, with 14% believing that the economy will contract greatly. This is a somewhat more pessimistic outlook compared to the CFO survey conducted in September 2020. 

When asked about the short-term outlook on company revenues, over half of respondents (57%) indicated they expect revenues to remain stable or even increase in the coming six months, while nearly one third (29%) predict revenues will fall by 10% or less. The latest survey results on revenues, from the week of 28 September 2020, are slightly more optimistic than CFOs’ predictions in the previous surveys. 

 


What are your organisation’s predictions in terms of revenue in the coming 6 months?


Revenue fall of more than 20%
%

Revenue will fall within 10%-20%
%

Revenue to fall 10% or less
%

Stable or increased revenues
%

Do you believe Belgian economic growth will improve, stay the same, or decline over the next 12 months?


Decline greatly
%

Decline moderately
%

Stay the same
%

Improve moderately
%

Improve greatly
%

How is your organisation planning to prepare for future threats such as another COVID-19 wave, a recession, or the effects of Brexit or the US elections?


Increase remote work situations in the event of another government movement restriction
%

Adapt business continuity planning (BCP)
%

Perform scenario planning
%

Other
%

Mind the gap

It’s no secret that the financial and operational impact of the COVID-19 crisis has deeply and permanently affected businesses across the globe. While companies recover from the initial shock and adjust to the so-called “new normal,” gaps in operational and  procedural efficiencies are being exposed.

What were small cracks pre-COVID have widened into rifts that can no longer be ignored, and organisations are shifting their priorities to fill those gaps. This survey dives into these challenges, with a focus on the immediate and long-term impact on the workforce. 

Remote working remains key

The CFOs in Belgium who participated in the survey were asked how they’re preparing for challenges in the future such as subsequent waves of COVID-19, a recession or the effects of Brexit or the US elections. An increase in remote work emerged as the top priority for 43% of respondents, followed by 29% indicating scenario planning as the main focus of preparation for future challenges.

Recovery: Curve with a ‘K’

According to a majority of CFOs in Belgium, 57%, the current crisis has had little or no impact on company operations and the workforce so far this year. Perhaps surprisingly, 7% indicate that the pandemic has actually had a positive impact and productivity is higher than normal. 

Michael Van Impe, Expert of PwC’s HR Transformation & Strategy - Management Consulting team explains:

“Overall, some businesses emerged relatively unscathed and are even experiencing growth due to COVID-19, while at the same time, others are suffering heavy losses. This is in line with the recent literature that describes this two-speed economic recovery pattern as a K curve, rather than the V (quick decline, quick recovery), U (slow and gradual recovery) and W (quick recovery followed by a second decline) curves cited earlier in the crisis.”


What is the impact of COVID-19 on your company’s operations and workforce so far this year?


Negative impact
%

Little or no impact
%

Positive impact
%

Which of the following remote working challenges has your company encountered?


Manager’s ability to oversee virtual teams and autonomous work
%

Work processes and metrics are not supportive of people working on flexible schedules
%

Employees are experiencing mental health issues on account of social isolation and/or economic anxiety
%

Teams are having difficulty communicating and collaborating virtually
%

Inability to translate cultural strengths in the virtual environment
%

Insufficient digital tools in place
%

None of the above
%

Teleworking: Room for improvement

The sudden shift to remote working brought a whole new set of challenges to companies forced to adapt at a moment’s notice. When asked to rank teleworking-related issues, CFOs in Belgium cite management’s inability to oversee teams working remotely as the main challenge exposed by the crisis. The difficulty teams are having in communicating and collaborating virtually was the next most significant challenge (46%), followed closely by employee mental health issues due to social isolation and/or economic anxiety, according to 43% of respondents. 

Sandrine Schaumont, PwC People and Organisation Partner and workforce expert agrees that contrary to popular belief, not all organisations are adequately set up for remote work.

“A lot of companies still don’t have the technology in place to optimise remote working,” explains Schaumont. “Most now have the basics covered, but many people are still required to physically go to the office for procedures like signing documents or running reports because they’re working with legacy systems and have prioritised other issues instead. From a technology standpoint, many companies fall in the middle of the spectrum, making them relatively late adopters. Belgium does not rank highly overall on the list of countries with the most tech-enabled companies.”

After social distancing: will we remain distant?

When asked how their organisations plan to conduct business in the event that social distancing guidelines are removed, 32% of CFOs in Belgium say that most employees will continue to work virtually in the short-term, but will return to onsite working when it’s deemed safe.

Of those surveyed, one quarter indicate that, barring valid reasons to the contrary, most employees will return to working onsite. Just 7% state their people will continue to work remotely as much as possible.

After social distancing: will we remain distant?

The blurred line between work and life 

Of survey participants, 43% claim that working remotely is having a positive effect on work-life balance. Only 21% feel that it has a negative effect, and over a third (36%) indicate it has no effect on the workforce whatsoever. 

According to Sandrine Schaumont, “Overall, people see working remotely as good for work-life balance. They can make time during business hours to run errands, pick up the kids… things that were nearly impossible to do while working onsite. But it’s a double-edged sword. Those same people often struggle with the delineation of work life and home life, and many end up compensating for the errands they run during the day by working longer hours.” 

Sandrine Schaumont adds that remote working has blurred the line between work and life, and people struggle with establishing boundaries. “Those who work from home need to discipline themselves. Not necessarily to stick to the job at hand, but rather to draw a hard line when the work day is done.”


How did the COVID-19 crisis affect the work-life balance of your employees?


It had a positive effect
%

It had a negative effect
%

It had little or no effect
%

Contact us

Matthias Reyntjens

Matthias Reyntjens

Managing Partner, Platforms & Industries Leader, PwC Belgium

Tel: +32 476 44 53 92

Sandrine Schaumont

Sandrine Schaumont

Partner, PwC Belgium

Tel: +32 479 79 45 06

Connect with PwC Belgium