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Post-election, fear of a new wave of COVID-19 infections surge to executives’ top concern, according to new PwC survey

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Businesses plan to double down on new workforce initiatives to help address employee well-being, mental health and societal issues

Monday, November 23, 2020 — Corporate leaders now identify fear of further shutdowns from a new wave of COVID-19 infections as their top concern (54%), outpacing the implications of a global economic downturn (41%), according to the latest results of PwC’s Road to Election 2020 Pulse Survey. Additionally, 86% of US executives also indicate that it is important for their company to have further federal economic relief from the incoming Biden administration. See ‘key survey results’ below for further details.

Similar to before the election, policy and regulatory shifts are a pressing concern for executives (64%) over the course of the next four years under a Biden administration; and in the next 12 months, 71% of executives are also now likely to reconsider current investment plans. Further, changes to US corporate tax policies have remained the top policy-related risk (see prior survey results), with over 70% of executives now planning to proactively act on a variety of items in anticipation of President-Elect Biden’s tax proposals, including modeling to quantify the impact (89%) and engaging in tax planning (87%).

Corporate leaders are confident in their companies’ resilience and remain optimistic about growth in 2021, even with lurking implications from the pandemic and potential policy shifts. Moreover, executives feel that they are more agile and better poised to adapt to future uncertainties, noting that they are least concerned about lack of demand (12%) and consumer confidence (14%).

“As uncertainty about the election outcome has waned, COVID-19 has re-emerged as a top concern for executives as they grapple with what their businesses will look like in the coming months,” said Tim Ryan, PwC US Chair and Senior Partner. “That said, news of possible effective vaccines signal a light at the end of the tunnel and has boosted executives’ confidence in their businesses’ ability to remain resilient in the months to come - and business leaders remain optimistic about future growth opportunities and are planning significant investments in their people, digital, M&A, and more.”

Building on prior efforts this year to support their people, 93% of executives plan to take further action to support their workforce, particularly around well-being and mental health support (72%). See ‘key survey results’ below for further details. The election also revealed that there is still a significant political divide in the country. Most executives (88%) plan to proactively address this through a variety of workplace culture initiatives, including: diversity and inclusion training (53%), creating new opportunities for employees to discuss social issues (47%), and reviewing organizational culture with a focus on empathy and humility (34%). Additionally, 32% of corporate leaders are more likely to make public statements on societal issues in the future as opposed to shying away from public discourse (11%).

“Business plays an integral role in helping to build culture because of its rising position in society and in the communities they serve,” said Bhushan Sethi, joint global leader of PwC’s People & Organization practice. “Corporate leaders recognize that they need to continue to help advance societal issues and see it as an opportunity to create a more unified and inclusive environment.”

More information, the full report can be found at www.pwc.com/us/election2020

Key Survey Results

Top concerns for US businesses as election uncertainty recedes

A new wave of COVID-19 infections leading to further shutdowns
%
Financial impact, including effects on results of operations, future periods and liquidity and capital resources
%
Impacts of global economic downturn
%
The effects on our workforce
%
Delays in approval and distribution of at least one safe and effective vaccine
%
Increased costs of doing business
%
Issues related to racial inequality and social injustice
%
Lack of employee confidence in ability to keep them safe
%
Decrease in consumer confidence
%
Lack of demand
%

Q: What are your top concerns with respect to operating in the current business environment? (Select up to three.)
Source: PwC US Pulse Survey
November 13, 2020: base of 656

Outlook for macro and business risks with a Biden administration

Policy/regulatory shifts
%
Environmental risk
%
Compliance risk
%
Macroeconomic risk
%
Cybersecurity
%
Workplace safety
%
Liquidity and solvency
%
Skills shortage
%
Third-party disruptions
%
Fraud
%
Brand/reputational damage
%

Q: In the next four years, with a Biden administration, which of the following macro and business risks will be more or less pressing, compared to the last four years? (Responses to ‘more pressing’)
Source: PwC US Pulse Survey
November 13, 2020: base of 656

Prioritizing employees

Increase support for well-being and mental health of the workforce
%
New benefits to employees
%
Upskilling
%
Hazard pay for on-site workers in affected areas
%
Childcare
%
Private transportation
%
Other
%

Q: In the absence or delay of additional federal economic stimulus for individuals, are you planning to offer any of the following to your employees? (Responses to ‘have a plan in place but haven’t started,’ ‘yes')
Source: PwC US Pulse Survey
November 13, 2020: base of 608

About the survey:

PwC Road to Election 2020 Survey

PwC fielded a study among 656 C-Suite and other executives to understand current levels of concern with and anticipated policy impacts of the 2020 US election. This survey fielded from November 9 to November 13, 2020, among executives, including 227 chief financial officers, 118 tax leaders, 112 chief risk officers/chief audit executives/chief information security officers, 108 chief human resource officers, and 91 chief operating officers. 73% of respondents are from Fortune 1000 companies. The PwC Road to Election 2020 Pulse Survey is taking place regularly to track changing sentiment and policy priorities. The first iteration of the Pulse Survey was conducted August 28 to September 3 and the second from September 30 to October 6. You can view all findings and insights by visiting: www.pwc.com/us/election2020

About PwC

At PwC, our purpose is to build trust in society and solve important problems. PwC is a network of firms in 155 countries with more than 284,000 people who are committed to delivering quality in assurance, advisory and tax services. Find out more and tell us what matters to you by visiting us at www.pwc.com.

PwC refers to the PwC network and/or one or more of its member firms, each of which is a separate legal entity. Please see www.pwc.com/structure for further details.

© 2021 PwC. All rights reserved.

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Molly Molendyke

Molly Molendyke

CEO Survey, Chairman Communications, US Executive Leadership Communications, PwC US

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