Covid-19 is a ‘challenge unlike any other’ for business leaders

New survey shows dramatic reversal in confidence among company directors

The coronavirus outbreak is a “ challenge unlike any other for the State and its business leaders”, according to the Institute of Directors Ireland (IoD), whose latest survey shows a dramatic reversal in confidence.

The survey, which was conducted over the last two weeks as the Republic’s economy ground to a halt, reveals that 96 per cent of company bosses are pessimistic about the economy, compared to just 24 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2019.

Brexit and political uncertainty arising after last month’s general election have been completely overshadowed by the Covid-19 outbreak with over 81 per cent of company bosses seeing it as the biggest risk facing their organisation.

"In the space of just a few months, the world as we know it has changed utterly – business leaders are finding themselves in unchartered waters, having to take very difficult decisions to protect the livelihoods of their staff and the immediate business continuity of their organisations in the short term," said Maura Quinn, chief executive of IoD, which has 3,000 members.


Temporary lay-offs

“We have seen the enormous human cost of sudden temporary lay-offs, redundancies, and the technological, logistical and, indeed, psychological challenges presented by the mass mobilisation of employers and employees into remote working, and all within a very tight timescale of a matter of weeks,” she added.

Just 8 per cent of company directors surveyed said they expected their company’s financial performance to improve this year, versus 60 per cent in the fourth quarter.

“With the country in an unprecedented situation and the wider Irish economy and international markets contracting severely in the face of measures designed to contain and eliminate the enormous public health threat of the Covid-19 pandemic, this is a challenge unlike any other for Ireland’s business leaders,” said Ms Quinn.

Charlie Taylor

Charlie Taylor

Charlie Taylor is a former Irish Times business journalist