More layoffs? Contact tracing? Remote work? See what CFOs think reopening will look like. Also, PwC reentry guide and contact tracing tool

by Brianna Crandall — June 1, 2020 — As US businesses reopen following the long coronavirus-induced shutdown, chief financial officers (CFOs) are coming to terms with a new business environment of lower anticipated revenues and reconfigured workplaces. Yet, companies that are reopening still face a skeptical workforce who continue to be worried about returning to the workplace safely.

PwC, a global network of financial services firms, has released its fifth COVID-19 CFO Pulse Survey measuring the experiences and expectations of chief financial officers. PwC also recently released a combination employee status / contact tracing tool and a reopening guide, highlighted below.

COVID-19 CFO Pulse Survey

According to PwC’s fifth COVID-19 CFO Pulse Survey, 55% of CFO respondents say they are projecting revenue/profit losses to be greater than 10% this year; this figure is up only 2 percentage points from two weeks prior, suggesting that worries about more severe revenue losses are starting to level off. Similarly, expectations of layoffs seem to be holding steady, with 31% of CFOs anticipating layoffs in the next month, a 1 percentage point drop from two weeks ago.

The survey findings suggest that the urgency to reduce expenditures and cut costs is also diminishing. While 80% of CFO respondents are considering cost containment measures, this figure is actually down from 86% two weeks ago. In addition, fewer CFOs are anticipating furloughs over the next month (36% vs. 44% two weeks ago).

Other bright spots include the confidence of businesses in their ability to protect their workers. In fact, nearly two-thirds (64%) of survey respondents are “very confident” their company can help create a safe workplace environment for employees. In addition, 83% of respondents anticipate changing workplace safety measures, up 6 points from two weeks prior, and 43% anticipate making remote work a permanent solution for roles that can accommodate it.

However, employers are still likely to face a host of employee concerns about returning to the workplace. For example, PwC surveyed more than 1,100 American workers the week of May 4th. Of those, 39% were forced to work remotely or stop working altogether (but are still getting paid). Within this group, over half (51%) say that the fear of getting COVID-19 would prevent them from going back to the workplace if their employer asked. In addition, nearly a quarter (24%) are unwilling to use public transportation for their commute and 21% cite their responsibility as a parent or caregiver as a reason preventing them from going back to the workplace.

Tim Ryan, PwC’s US chair and senior partner, pointed out:

Given the unprecedented nature of this global pandemic, it is clear that workers are very worried about being able to stay healthy and safe as they are asked to return to their offices and worksites. The most important thing business leaders can do to address their employees’ worries is to communicate frequently and transparently about how they are working behind the scenes to keep them safe, healthy and employed.

Amity Millhiser, PwC’s chief clients officer, remarked:

As more companies reopen, CFOs are coming to terms with a new reality and managing their expectations accordingly. We are seeing many leaders begin to pull back from drastic cost containment measures as they figure out how to operationalize their businesses in a new environment that must take into consideration the calculated risks of operating during this crisis. While their worries are leveling off, this could all change if there is a future spike in infections.

Additional survey results

Top finding:

For the first time, over half (58%) of CFOs expect it will take at least three months for their company to return to “business as usual” if the virus were to end today.


  • 85% of respondents expect that COVID-19 will decrease their company’s revenue and/or profits this year (up 5 percentage points).
  • 6% of respondents report that COVID-19’s impact on revenue and/or profits is still too difficult to assess at present (down 6 percentage points).
  • 20% of respondents expect a decrease in revenues and/or profits of 25% or more.

Financial actions:

  • 58% are considering deferring or canceling planned investments (down 12 percentage points).
    •  Of these respondents, 80% (same as two weeks ago) are considering delaying or canceling facilities/general capital expenditures.
    •   57% (vs. 62% two weeks ago) are considering workforce investments and 48% (same as two weeks ago) are considering IT investments.

Supply chains:

  • 52% are planning to understand the financial and operational health of their suppliers.
  • 47% are planning to develop additional, alternate sourcing options for their supply chains (down 9 percentage points).


  • 73% anticipate reconfiguring work sites to promote physical distancing (up 8 percentage points).
  • 58% anticipate changing and/or alternating shifts to reduce exposure (up 6 percentage points).

Positive long-term changes:

  • 72% believe their companies will be more agile and resilient moving forward.
  • 68% cite moving to a flexible work environment has better equipped their companies for the long run.
About the surveys

For the COVID-19 CFO Pulse Survey, PwC surveyed 288 US CFOs and finance leaders May 5-7, 2020; 68 of them were from Fortune 500 companies. 81% of respondents were from public and private companies in these top four sectors: consumer markets (16%), financial services (23%), industrial products (26%), and technology, media and telecommunications (16%). The PwC COVID-19 CFO Pulse Survey has been conducted every two weeks since the beginning of April to track changing sentiment and priorities. See results online.

For the COVID-19 US Employee Pulse Survey, PwC surveyed more than 1,100 American workers nationwide to find out how they feel about returning to the workplace. The survey took place during the week of May 4, 2020. Findings are available online.

Employee status and contact tracing tool

To help employers and facilities managers (FMs) as buildings reopen, PwC has created Check-In, a precision platform made up of two products and built with privacy as a priority.

  • Status Connect keeps companies connected to their workforce and provides a near real-time view of productivity.
  • Automatic Contact Tracing identifies risk exposure so companies can quickly identify and alert employees who may have come into contact with a co-worker at the workplace who has tested positive for COVID-19.

Check-In is accessible on laptops, desktops, Android and iOS, and does not require VPN. No additional hardware is needed.

Workplace reopening guidance

PwC has also developed a workplace reentry guide, Reboot: Return to the Workplace, to give companies confidence about when and how to reopen their buildings, and how to manage health and safety, changing conditions and technology as they do so.

COVID-19 and reopening resources

In addition, PwC offers research, publications and resources about the pandemic and reopening issues on its webpage COVID-19: What US Business Leaders Should Know.