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UK CEOs must embrace the 'licence to change' COVID-19 has created

COVID-19 has propelled us all into new ways of working, and while the pace of change and uncertainty may have been uncomfortable - even scary - at times, business leaders have an opportunity now to seize advantage from the disruption.

The crisis has given CEOs the mandate to rethink and reinvent how they work and to embrace positive changes made through necessity and forced experimentation. Specifically, the dramatic acceleration of trends around digital transformation and remote and flexible working means CEOs can now embed changes that otherwise may have taken a decade or more to happen.

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“The crisis has given CEOs the mandate to rethink and reinvent how they work. The dramatic acceleration of trends around digital transformation and remote and flexible working means CEOs can now embed changes that otherwise may have taken a decade or more to happen.”

Marco Amitrano, Head of Clients and Markets, PwC UK

For CEOs there should be no turning back. Staying relevant and establishing competitive advantage depends on embedding these changes quickly and successfully.

Very few UK CEOs are contemplating a return to how things were before the pandemic. The vast majority (86%) of respondents to the PwC CEO Panel Survey believe the shift towards remote collaboration will endure and many respondents are prioritising the digital transformation of core business operations and planning for a world where there are fewer people in offices and more working remotely.

“The pandemic has created a licence to drive material change”

PwC CEO Panel respondent

It is crucial also to join the dots of the many changes that have happened in a short space of time, to ensure the broadest range of benefits, not just in terms of increased workforce efficiency and a more digitally-enabled business, but also improved employee wellbeing, environmental impact and operating costs.

“The greatest opportunity has been to rethink how we operate, getting more flexibility, better work life balance, lower cost and lower impact on the environment.”

PwC CEO Panel respondent

However, all this change must not come at a cost to stability and organisations must review the ways in which they have enabled rapid changes within their workforce. They must quickly get on top of risks and unintended consequences that have opened up as their perimeters and their controls over people, policies and processes were loosened in the interests of business continuity.

Effectively embedding ways of working - forged in the extreme conditions of COVID-19 - will put companies years ahead of where they may otherwise have been and will create far greater resilience.

That resilience will be crucial, because we can rarely control what comes next, but we can always control how we respond.

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Marco Amitrano

Marco Amitrano

Head of Clients and Markets, PwC United Kingdom

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