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Businesses expect working life to be different post-pandemic, international survey finds

Monday 14 December 2020: ICAEW has published a survey of its international members on their views on the future of work today.

  • Nine in 10 businesses expect working life to be different in the future
  • Half of businesses have found the pandemic has had an impact on employee induction
  • Two-thirds say pandemic has made it harder to know what is going on in their business

Most businesses around the world expect working life to be different in the future, a survey by chartered accountancy body ICAEW has found.

In a report published today (MONDAY 14 DECEMBER 2020), based on a survey with chartered accountants from more than 50 countries, the shift to remote and flexible working was mostly seen as positive experience, ICAEW said.

Nine in 10 businesses felt working life would look different in the future, compared to pre-pandemic times. [1]

Mental health

A far greater reliance on remote working during the pandemic, and the risks of staff feeling isolated, meant support for employee mental health and wellbeing was more important than before, the report said.

Just under half respondents said the pandemic had had a negative impact on mental health, while two-fifths believed organisations found it difficult to keep up staff morale. [2]

Flexibility around working hours and having a greater awareness of colleagues’ personal obligations were key to supporting mental health, the report said.

Nevertheless, most respondents said the shift to remote working was a positive experience, as was the acceleration in technology it brought with it. 

Developing talent

Half of those surveyed said bringing on board new employees had been difficult because aspects of ‘on-boarding’ new hires was more challenging when done remotely.[3]

As a result, members said they wanted to see a return to in-person interviews and induction processes.

In a climate where new and young employees had missed out on the benefit of face-to-face interactions, ICAEW said organisations must actively pursue mentoring, guidance and formal training to help build their practical experience. 

Human interaction

 The report also examined the value that face-to-face interactions can add to organisations. Half of survey respondents said that the pandemic posed challenges when engaging new clients and building relationships, while just under half thought it was easy to maintain corporate culture. [4]

The pandemic had underlined that organisations were ultimately dependent on people interacting, ICAEW said, and suggested that remote working could bring new dynamics to employee interaction.

Remote working could change the perception of hierarchy, break down cross-country barriers and facilitate recruitment, the report added.

Business challenges 

Three-quarters of respondents said their top operational challenge was forecasting, while two in three said the pandemic made it difficult to understand what was going on in their business. [5]

Successful organisations must be aware of what’s going on in their business, irrespective of whether employees are remote or office-based, the report said.

Mark Protherough, ICAEW Executive Director, Learning and Professional Development, said:

 “It’s clear that the coronavirus pandemic has had a very extensive impact on working practices across the globe and that the changes are likely to last for some time to come.

“Our members have told us there have been positive shifts in working patterns over the past year, creating new opportunities and accelerating shifts in technology. But there have also been significant downsides, most notably the reduction in face-to-face contact, which has had a negative impact on day-to-day operations, recruitment, employee wellbeing and mental health.

“Chartered accountants sit at the heart of business so are well-placed to see the bigger picture as economies rebuild. We hope these findings will inform and guide organisations all over the world as we move into a period of recovery.”


Notes to editors:

 [1] Nine in 10 respondents considered that working life would look very different to pre-pandemic times, while over a third believed things would look very different

[2] The impact on mental health was seen by just under half of respondents as having been negative, while two-fifths thought organisations had found it difficult to keep up staff morale

[3] One in two respondents said organisations have struggled to bring on board new employees.

[4] One in two respondents pointed to the challenges faced by organisations in engaging new clients and building new relationships

[5] Over three-quarters of the respondents saw forecasting as the top challenge, while two in three underlined difficulties with understanding what is going on in the business

[6] The full report is available here.

[7] ICAEW wanted to get rapid feedback from members on their views on the future of work. An online survey was sent to ICAEW Chartered Accountants outside of the UK, working in industry/business, practice, public sector, or not-for-profit/charities. The survey ran from 24 to 30 November 2020, and 292 responses were received from members based in 54 countries.


Media enquiries

Please direct all media inquiries related to this article to:

Tom Mackintosh
Tel: +44 (0) 20 7920 8789
Email: tom.mackintosh@icaew.com