Forecasting what the next step will likely be is fraught with difficulties, finds a new survey from ICAEW. Image Credit: Maxpic

Dubai: Making forecasts – businesses are finding that in the age of pandemic trying to make informed decisions of the future can prove dicey.

In fact, three-quarters of respondents in a new survey said this was their “top operational challenge”, while two in three said the pandemic has made it difficult to understand what was going on in their business.

“The pandemic has certainly exposed many vulnerabilities across business operations,” said Michael Armstrong, Regional Director at ICAEW for the Middle East, Africa and South Asia. “Agility remains a significant theme throughout the pandemic, and businesses that have accelerated their digital transformation are best positioned to recover.”

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Businesses and workforces are definitely getting the hang of work-from-home and that flexible operational hours will continue to be part of strategy… at least for the foreseeable future. This is definitely crimping face-to-face moments, especially involving clients.

Half of the survey respondents were of this opinion, though another half reckoned it was “easy to maintain corporate culture”.

Remote working could end up changing the perception of hierarchy, break down cross-country barriers and facilitate recruitment.

Organisations are “ultimately dependent on people interacting,” ICAEW said.

Digital downsides

While tech and digital working ways set all the trends, they do have their downsides. Chief among them is the “threat of cyber-crime and so digital literacy is going to be hugely important as we move forward to protect businesses from potentially ruinous risks,” said Armstrong.

Talent spotting

Another difficultly is getting in new talent, as various aspects of ‘on-boarding’ them present more of a challenge when done remotely. Businesses said they want to see a return to in-person interviews and induction.

According to ICAEW, organisations must "actively pursue mentoring, guidance and formal training to help build their practical experience".

State of mind

It has also become amply clear that there needs to be more support for employees' mental health and wellbeing needs. Just under half polled said the pandemic had a negative impact on mental health, while two-fifths believed organisations found it difficult to keep up staff morale.

Flexibility around working hours and having a greater awareness of colleagues’ personal obligations were key to supporting mental health, the report says.