While many finance leaders feel largely positive about their teams’ response to the COVID-19 pandemic, there’s significant variance at a regional level. In particular, fewer finance leaders in Asia-Pacific feel positive about the shift compared with other regions. For example, while 80% of respondents to the survey in the Americas were satisfied with the shift to remote working, only 65% of respondents were satisfied in Asia-Pacific.
Lawrence Lau, EY Greater China FAAS Leader, points out that, in China, organizations had essentially no time to plan, given that they were in the forefront of the COVID-19 pandemic’s emergence. “No one had the chance to prepare for anything like this, and no one had any experience of what to do,” he says. “There were significant challenges. Companies had to move to remote closing, but work-from-home is a new way of working in China. Organizations have multiple operations around the world, and with their American or European operations not going into lockdown until March or April, it created a really challenging situation. Office infrastructure was able to cope with the volume of data processing in finance, but then we were suddenly moving to a virtual environment. And then, of course, there’s the human aspect. People were concerned about their personal health, the need to deal with family matters, and the damage that was potentially being done to businesses and daily life.”
Looking forward, Lawrence Lau believes that organizations in China and the Asia-Pacific area will need to consider what the future of work looks like. “In certain industries in China, I can see where we could accommodate more flexible work approaches, between work-from-home and office,” he says.