Stuart Gentle Publisher at Onrec

A quarter of bosses have yet to address staff directly on Covid-19 crisis

UK CEOs shun video conference systems and opt for email updates as millions turn to remote working to do their jobs, according to a major new report into how large and medium sized companies are operating during the pandemic

A quarter of UK bosses (27 per cent) have failed to address their staff via video conference to update them on the implications of the Covid-19 crisis. The news comes as projections suggest a surge in UK unemployment figures, with over half a million workers signing-on for universal credit.

The polling forms part of a new 1,500-word report entitled Covid-19: Isolation Nation, produced by the Parliament Street think tank, examining the implications that the Coronavirus outbreak will have for UK businesses.

The report, which was conducted after the government’s formal ‘lockdown’ rules, provides a detailed analysis of the opinions of 200 senior business decision-makers in large and medium sized companies across the UK on remote working plans and employee initiatives designed to help staff through the pandemic.

Other key findings of the report include that two in 10 companies have struggled with managing their payroll remotely, with 21 per cent expecting delays to salary payments this month.  Meanwhile, just under one third (31 per cent) say they have experienced their video conferencing system crash at least once in the last three weeks during a crucial meeting.

In terms of IT resources, 58 per cent of companies have ordered in new laptops, tablet computers and mobiles to manage 100% remote working. Crucially, one third (33 per cent) have done so without upgrading their security systems. Additionally, 34 per cent of businesses said they had hired in external IT support to cope with the surge in remote working.

The research also revealed that companies were continuing to operate as usual, despite the crisis. 38 per cent said they were continuing to enable digital skills training via video link. 42 per cent have introduced quizzes and online team tasks to boost morale. Additionally, 27 per cent have conducted annual performance reviews and promotions with individual staff members via video link.

However, 34 per cent of business decision-makers said they had received at least one complaint from a member staff of mental health fears in the last three weeks.

However, there were signs that businesses were preparing to make substantial cuts to operations, with 24 per cent saying they plan to give notice on lease and office rental agreements in the next few months.

Rod Flavell, CEO, FDM Group, a FTSE 250 IT training company, comments:

“It’s crucial that during tough times, CEOs lead from the front, keeping staff fully updated on the challenges facing the business and ensuring every employee feels valued, particularly when they are working remotely.

“It’s not easy for large businesses to adapt to a completely new way of working, but it’s vital that leaders recognise the need to deliver training and team engagement initiatives online. In times of uncertainty, business leaders must show staff they recognise the anxieties they face, by keeping in regular video contact with every employee, whatever their managerial position or level of experience.”

About the research

Independent research company Censuswide polled 200 senior business decision-makers in large and medium sized UK companies on their approach to the Covid-19 crisis. The polling was conducted on 25th and 26th of March 2020 after the UK government announced a ‘lockdown’ strategy, restricting the movement of people to essential tasks and trips.