A quarter of Irish finance leaders believe it will take more than a year for their businesses to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic, longer than for any other country in the world.

Are Irish chief financial officers being pessimistic or realistic about the economic recovery post Covid?

Feargal O'Rourke, Managing Partner with PwC Ireland, said that the Irish CFO community is just a little more pragmatic in understanding how long this is going to be with us.

"They don't expect an uptick in the global economy until at least this time next year," he added.

The pandemic has been a wake up call for business leaders and forced many to rethink how they operate their businesses.

Business trends are shifting and companies are becoming more digital, more virtual. Those who had invested in digital technology in recent years were at an advantage when Covid-19 hit.

"There's definitely a digital divide in those companies who had invested in making their operations mobile, in digitising their processes and coming up with new digital offerings, and those companies who hadn't invested in that, but they all realise now that digital is the way to go," Mr O'Rourke said.

"There's a slight silver lining in the dark clouds of Brexit in that a number of Irish companies seem to be better prepared than their global counterparts for this," he stated.

"I think that's because many companies had looked at their businesses and said, 'How do we become more leaner, more agile, smarter?' I think Irish companies had a bit of a head start," Mr O'Rourke added.

Another key message coming out of PwC's CEO Pulse Survey is prioritising people. Businesses are looking to make their operations more employee-centric.

Mr O'Rourke believes the companies that have been prioritising employees are the firms who have been yielding the benefits. "If it's only now you realised how important your people are, it's a bit late," he said.

CEOs are getting a lead on flexible working, protecting employee health, and on employee retention. Employees have been flexible and accommodating during lockdown, and bosses realise that that loyalty should be reciprocated.

"It's really come home to roost that people are the most important asset which aren't on your balance sheet."

He said once the crisis passes, companies will embrace a more flexible work place.

"Anybody who is predicting the demise of the office, I think is a little bit off because the office is a really positive focus for collaboration," Mr O'Rourke said.

"But I think we are going to see a more hybrid model where people will say, 'How often do I need to be in the office? And how often can I work smartly and remotely from home?" he concluded.