Two thirds of Verdict readers fear the coronavirus will hurt their business

By Lucy Ingham

The impact of the Covid-19 coronavirus on business operations is undoubtedly severe, but the true extent of it is still being realised.

However, signs currently suggest that the majority of businesses will be harmed by the pandemic.

A survey of Verdict readers has found that over two thirds fear that the coronavirus will have a negative impact on their business.

Almost 1,000 Verdict readers, who work predominantly in technology and finance, and are mainly from the US, UK, India, South Africa and Canada, responded to the survey, which was conducted between 2 and 25 March 2020.

This coincided with a spate of lockdowns around the world in response to the virus, with the UK bringing in strict police-enforced measures on 23 March.

In the survey, 69% said that they were worried about the coronavirus hurting their business, while just 31% said that they were not worried. Notably, the ratio remained relatively consistent throughout the time the survey was open to responses for.

coronavirus business impactHow the coronavirus could have a negative impact on business

While in some industries, such as hospitality, the harm caused by the coronavirus is very clear and immediate, for others where employees can continue to work from home, the damage is not so clear.

However, there are fears that even in organisations where operations can be conducted entirely remotely, there will be a hit to productivity.

This is in part due to operational issues such as less management oversight, new technologies and issues with regular communication, but mental health is also a growing concern.

“The first day or two of homeworking can feel quite fun – it’s different, you don’t have to get up as early, there’s no morning commute – but then the reality sets in and it can become a real challenge for people,” explained Jane Sparrow, founder and director of business culture consultancy The Culture Builders.

“If you’re used to seeing your colleagues or customers every day, feelings of isolation can creep in remarkably quickly. This new remote working environment can also affect focus, a sense of team and creativity.

“It’s not something that is often talked about but if we are to help our teams stay healthy, happy and ultimately productive, we have to recognise and manage the high stress environment that remote working can create for many people.”

There are also, of course, growing fears of a global recession, which looks set not only to upend many industries, but accelerate rapid and significant transformation of how businesses need to operate.

“New industries will come into their own and, as ever, there will be winners and losers,” said Nigel Green, CEO of deVere Group.

“This will mean job losses in some sectors and huge – possibly unprecedented – job and investment opportunities in others.”

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