Survey - From surviving to thriving: What Executives Are Saying About The Future Of Hybrid Working & Post-Covid Growth
25 August 2021
It’s fair to say that the pandemic has touched just about every business sector in the UK, and in fact worldwide.
Here at Novo, we know how important it is for our clients to understand the executive workforce. However, much has changed in the last year and a half globally, let alone in the UK.
We commissioned a new survey to understand how UK executives feel the pandemic has effected them, how they adapted to the pandemic, and what they feel the outlook is for the UK as we come out of COVID-19 restrictions.
We surveyed 100 UK executives using industry leading survey software, Pollfish. What follows is a write-up of the survey results (full survey data available on request).
The Pandemic Affected Ways of Working
Remote working wasn’t commonplace for most executives before the COVID-19 pandemic, according to respondents. In fact, 75% of executives in our survey said that prior to COVID, remote working was either rare or not common in their specific industry.
Moreover, when it came to their individual role, the majority said it wasn’t usual practise to work remotely.
Unsurprisingly, a whopping 83% of execs surveyed said that lockdowns interrupted their way of working either 'quite a lot’ or ‘severely’.
The UK Executive Workforce is Good at Adapting
In terms of adapting to enable remote working, over 71% of those surveyed needed to buy new hardware to enable working from home, and around 60% of executives surveyed said they needed to invest in new software, or their business did.
Of executives that mentioned the name of the software, the most commonly mentioned softwares, in order of most mentioned were:
1 - Zoom
2 - Microsoft Teams
3 - Office.
Both Zoom and Microsoft Teams then, were instrumental in UK executives being able to work from home during the COVID-19 restrictions.
Microsoft launched a dedicated page detailing their response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and published guides on how businesses can increase their resilience.
But Zoom seems to have performed the best and been the most sought-after software tool with the execs we surveyed. In fact, looking at Google Trends for the name the top-reported software, ‘Zoom’, search for this product shot up during the first quarter of 2020, as can be seen below:
This had a positive impact on the company… According to an article on NASDAQ, Zoom’s share value soared an incredible 450% in 2020.
Clearly, companies that have solutions which enable businesses to adapt to survive and thrive during the pandemic fared well.
Speaking of adapting...
Once Adapted, UK Executives Performed Well
Once adapted to remote working, 91% of executives surveyed said they felt they could work either in a VERY efficient way (55%) or relatively efficiently (36%), leaving only 9% feeling their efficiency was sub-par.
Perhaps surprisingly, most executives were able to maintain business relationships during the pandemic, with only 8% of execs surveyed stated that business relationships suffered as a result of the pandemic. This is a testament to the ability of UK executives to adapt in order to maintain good business relationships.
Should the need to work remotely arise again, 92% of executives stated that it would either be a bit easier (36%), or much easier (57%) to revert to remote working again if needed in the future. This is likely because, as we saw above, many UK executives are now fully set-up for remote working, both in terms of hardware and software, and are well-practised at working from home.
In fact, when it comes to a possibility that hybrid working (a mix of in-office and remote working) would be a larger part of their work life after the pandemic, a huge majority of 87% of those surveyed said that it’s either possible (39%) or likely (48%).
Companies That Offer Hybrid & Remote Working Will See a Benefit
When headhunting top executives, it’s commonplace for businesses to offer competitive incentives with the goal of luring talent away from their competitors…
With that in mind, businesses should take note of the fact that in our survey, a whopping 72% of executives polled said they would consider changing roles to a different executive position if it offered more flexibility in terms of remote or hybrid working.
95% of executives also stated that they felt the ability for staff to work in a hybrid manner either would (68%), or maybe would (27%), benefit a business by making it more future-proof. This may, in part, be the reason many execs would consider changing roles for the ability to work in a hybrid fashion - Top executives would certainly be more drawn to businesses they consider future-proof.
Similarly, 93% of execs said that offering hybrid working either would (63%), or may (30%) mean a business had a greater potential for growth. Again, this would also explain why 72% of execs would consider jumping ship for the right to work hybrid… working for a company with growth potential is exciting.
We also asked respondents how they felt executives being able to use hybrid working may benefit a business. To help judge sentiment, their responses (restricted to the top 150 words) have been entered into a word cloud, shown below (via https://www.jasondavies.com/wordcloud/)
Sentiment Amongst Executives is Positive For UK Business Moving Forwards
As the UK GDP grew in each of the first 3 months of 2021, we asked executives how positive they felt about the future of UK business.
Only 8% of executives surveyed had a negative sentiment for the future of UK business, with 24% not being quite sure, but the majority, 68%, saying they felt positive about UK business.
In terms of international trade, despite the oft shouted about Brexit issues, over half of executives surveyed (54%) felt the future will be bright for international trade in the UK, with 24% being not quite sure.
Our Comments on The Survey Results
"Without doubt, UK industry had to respond decisively to the pandemic in order to remain effective and ensure continuity. The workforce and executives clearly responded to the situation and adapted working practices, relationship management and resources.
The outlook for UK industry is certainly positive and the growth in investment and trading opportunities has been gathering pace. Attracting and retaining talent however has never been more important and is a major factor for companies maximising these opportunities.
Proactive methods of identifying and attracting individuals who can make an impact on business is becoming increasingly important. Having a strong message and opportunity and taking that proactively to the best individuals pays dividends when looking to appoint. A no-compromise and proven executive search approach is critical when doing this."
Jon Hollier, Founding Director, Novo Executive Search & Selection
The COVID-19 pandemic had a marked impact on UK executives and their ways of working. Execs had to act fast to adapt, the majority having to invest in hardware or software (or their businesses did). However, once adapted, the UK executive workforce, according to our survey, performed well. The majority of executives felt they performed well during work from home periods, and managed to maintain a decent level of business relationships.
What’s more, the vast majority of UK execs felt better equipped to work remotely or in a hybrid way in the future if needed, and most felt positive about UK business and international trade.
Something for businesses to take note of, is the fact that most executives would actually jump ship for the ability to work in a hybrid way more often.