UK CEOs leading the way on employee wellbeing

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UK CEOs are leading the way in recognising the toll the coronavirus pandemic is having on their employees, new research from PwC has found.

The accountancy firm's CEO Panel Survey 2020, which surveyed 699 CEOs in June and July, including 96 in the UK, found that 93% of UK CEOs prioritised protecting the health and safety of their workforce over everything else in their response to the pandemic, compared with 92% globally.

UK CEOs were also found to have been significantly more focused on their employees’ mental wellbeing than their global counterparts, with 90% providing wellbeing support and initiatives, compared with 61% of CEOs globally.

Additionally, nearly a quarter (24%) of CEOs both globally and in the UK provided additional financial support to their employees.

PwC UK chairman and senior partner Kevin Ellis said: “While there are many difficult decisions for business to make in the short and medium term, it’s critical we continue to invest in health and wellbeing to protect the workforce of the future.”

Company directors and HR teams have supported their CEOs throughout the pandemic to ensure the needs of their workforce have been met at every stage.

Melissa Sergeant, managing director at financial services provider Bishopsgate Financial, told HR Magazine that employee health and safety was the primary concern of the firm's management at the start of the pandemic.

“We had a COO who was seven months pregnant, so we sent her home straight away, and we had another couple of employees who live with their elderly grandparents who would have been shielding.

“So the important thing for us was to get them home and comfortably set up to work from home, but also adjusting their schedule to meet the various unique needs that they have.”

She said employee mental health and wellbeing then became a major focus around a couple of weeks later.

“We've done a lot more communication than we would even think about doing when we're all together in the office. We have a lot of video calls, almost every day.”

The PwC survey also found that the pandemic has rapidly increased the adoption of digital working practices and is driving significant changes to business models, with 86% of UK CEOs now expecting to see a permanent shift towards more remote working.

Sergeant said she is anticipating that Bishopsgate and many of its clients will adopt a hybrid return to the office.

“We did a survey of most of our clients – 45 of the top leading banks with a 60% response on the survey – and the vast majority of those said that they can see an ongoing working from home environment.

“We've had a lot of discussions with many of our clients on this and what we can see is there will be a mix of maybe a couple of days working from home and a few days in the office, depending on what they're working on, where they are, and the level of vulnerability of the pandemic.”

Further reading:

Test, track and trace in the workplace

Alastair Campbell: the importance of mental health during coronavirus

All change is a form of grief

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