Post-pandemic, 90% of businesses worldwide expect working life to look different, according to an international survey by ICAEW, which also underlined the need to address growing mental health concerns
A far greater reliance on remote working during the Covid-19 outbreak, 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.
In addition, one in two respondents said organisations have struggled to bring on board new employees, and the same proportion pointed to the challenges faced by organisations in engaging new clients and building new relationships.
As a result, accountants 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.
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.
As regards business strategies going forward, 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.
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.’