SINGAPORE (May 22): Many things in life are predictable — even when they are complicated. Indeed, science and innovation has been making the world more predictable for centuries. It has been a big investment area for humanity. Yet, despite everything we know, no one could have anticipated that 2020 would be the year when a virus would create sweeping public health and economic crises. It is a stark reminder that the world can still be an unpredictable place.

In this context, business leaders must set a course for the months and years ahead. Many industries have experienced the double impact of public health measures on their workforce, and the destruction of customer demand and declining revenue. Others have seen a surge in demand as customer behaviour changes. Whether these changes will be enduring is uncertain, and that is only heightened by the anxiety and caution that many organisations must now apply in their decision-making.

Mercer has been collecting and analysing data about the impact that Covid-19 is having. Our recent global pulse shows that many companies are taking a cautious approach. They continue to monitor the need for labour cost reductions, and for those who have already acted, hiring freezes are common. Some are considering if people should return to their place of work at all, given the enabling of remote working, and the huge cost savings it can reap. One in three respondents also perceived the biggest problems in the switch to remote working in the areas of effective people management and employee mental health. We have found that people are worried about job losses and pay cuts due to the economic slowdown, as well as experiencing isolation and overload.

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