56% of business leaders describe themselves as ‘extremely’ or ‘very’ stressed when it comes to their business or organisation, according to a Pulse Check from engagement consultancy Question & Retain.

The survey of 1,094 C-suite executives, 50% of which were from SMEs, between 14-27 July 2020 were asked ‘How stressed do you feel about your business/organisation at present?’.

The findings are unsurprising, considering the difficulties facing all industries in the wake of COVID-19 and the build up to the UK’s exit from the European Union. Answering how stressed they were: 

  • 8% responded extremely
  • 48% very
  • 12% fairly 
  • 24% a little
  • 8% not at all

For what the respondents are most worried about, the majority cited the possibility of a recession. Encouragingly, none of those taking part in the poll were worried about their own position:

  • 61% were most worried about a recession
  • 9% Brexit/trading problems
  • 22% Second wave/local lockdowns
  • 4% Debts/bankruptcy
  • 0% Your own job
  • 4% Other

In further research among 2,700 business leaders conducted between 29 July – 4th August 2020, Q&R asked what the opportunities may be midst the pandemic driven economic downturn.  The most positive leaders were able to acknowledge that despite initial panic and anxiety they had been able to take stock and went on to detail positive steps they had taken.  The top six included:

  1. Transforming the ways teams worked
  2. Rapidly accelerating plans to digitise delivery of services
  3. Growing new opportunities and building new income streams based on new markets
  4. Newly developed online products that can now give us global reach
  5. Opened our minds to much more effective crisis and scenario planning 
  6. Shifted our Board meetings to weekly, not quarterly which has really galvanised actions

Annabel Dunstan, CEO and Founder, Question & Retain, commented: 

Clearly business leaders have had to dig deep adapting to a myriad of circumstances that none of us could have imagined just six months ago.  As we emerge from the first lockdown C-Suite must now shift focus from reactive actions to planning for scenarios and keeping an eye on the longer-term strategy.  With stress levels running high, a focus on mental fitness and wellbeing will be key to ensure leaders do not burn out.  With nearly two thirds of leaders most worried about a recession, energies need to be directed at really understanding the market and what customers need and want.  No mean feat, but more than ever, listening and gauging sentiment is critical”.

“Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.”  Dalai Lama, Haruki Murakami


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