Business Impacts of Covid

5th October 2020

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The second Alternatives Marketing at Work Covid Pulse Survey was carried out between September 17th-28th 2020.  It was completed by 295 people in the marketing community in Ireland, from across sector and from both small and large companies and at all career stages. It was designed to see how the current pandemic is impacting on the businesses of the community, how they are finding working from home and how it is impacting on their roles and on them personally.

Alternatives Founder and author of the survey, Sandra Lawler said: “We all know that the Covid pandemic has deeply impacted businesses and attitudes, with some sectors and businesses hit almost beyond repair. However, our Pulse survey shows that some are finding positives for their businesses and for themselves personally.

From Alternatives perspective, agility and great marketing talent, both core to us, have never been more important, to help business to survive, indeed thrive, in these changing times.”

Survey highlights


Impact on businesses remains significant, but position somewhat improved since April

The crisis remains significant and has had a negative impact on business performance for 70% of respondents (vs 81% in April). The future, longer term outlook remains negative for 61%.  Small businesses are more impacted than large and sectors that are most negatively impacted include tourism, agencies, drinks and not for profit.

However, it’s not all negative. 20% of respondents have seen some or significant positive impact of Covid on their business. Most positive sectors include E-commerce, retail, logistics, education and FMCG.

Covid remains the key issue, but Brexit is significant again.

Although Covid remains the key threat, Brexit is a significant issue and back up the agenda again. 40% say it is as big or a bigger issue than Covid and in particular for those in the FMCG, agri, logistics, professional/ business services and financial services sectors.

“With both Covid and Brexit impacting heavily in the short and medium term, companies will need to embrace agility, to re-shape strategy, adapt and pivot. There’s an urgent, commercial and communication imperative and customers as well as employees must be at the centre of this rethink. This is where marketing can continue to play a critical role,” said Sandra.


Covid has had a deep personal impact, but most are coping ok

When asked how they were coping overall, both female and male respondents gave an average score of 6.7 out of 10, down a little from 7 out of 10 in April, likely influenced by the recent increase in Covid cases and the move into autumn/winter, living with Covid.

But there are concerns to manage, going into Autumn – Impact of the lack of interaction, as well as increased workload & personal stress

53% of respondents – both male and female – find the lack of personal interaction with their teams and clients difficult and their biggest concern. This is followed by increased workload which is a much bigger issue now, six months in, for 41% compared to 18% of respondents in April.

Undoubtably linked, personal stress has massively risen and is a key concern for 39% vs 14% in April. For male respondents it is their second largest concern (41%).

According to Sandra Lawler ‘“Companies must redouble efforts to engage with and effectively manage their people now. They need to help them manage their growing workload and their personal stress levels. They will also need to respond to the very strong desire of this community to work in a hybrid way in the longer term.”’

There are however some positive impacts of this pandemic – mostly no commuting and a better work life balance

Less commuting (71%) and a better work life balance (46%) are the key positives for marketing community respondents and lots are simply enjoying working from home (38%), especially females. Many have done more exercise (39%).


1 in 4 people have had their employment impacted – small companies and certain sectors more impacted

One in four have had a change to their current employment status, due to Covid. Many of those who were on temporary layoffs (11% in April) have returned to work, but 6% have now been made redundant.

•15% of those from small companies have been made redundant on a permanent or temporary basis vs 4% in large.

•84% of those working in larger companies have had no change to their status and conditions.

•17% of those working in hotel and tourism sectors have been made permanently redundant, 8% are on temporary layoff and a third on reduced hours. Agencies have also been badly hit.

40% have had salary impacted due to Covid

40% of the marketing community respondents have had a reduction to their salary and/or other financial remuneration. 53% have had no change in salary or bonuses at this point.

In terms of sectors, the greatest hit to salaries have been in agencies where 59% have had salary cuts, hotels/ tourism/ents (54%), media & publishing (50%), drinks (39%) and not for profit (38%). Those working in small companies have been much more impacted by salary and other financial remuneration cuts.


Working from home is working in general

In general, working from home is working for people both personally and for their role. Two in three feel they are more productive and enjoy not commuting and a better work life balance. That said, they do not wish to stay working full-time from home forever and see a hybrid model, with a mix of home and workplace, as the ideal in the future.

68% of respondents will continue to work from home this quarter and feel working from home will continue for the foreseeable future. Only 16% anticipate a return to the workplace by January and only 40% by spring 2021. 6% feel it won’t be until 2022 and 5% think their business will never return.

Working from home is working for the majority

Working from home in general is still working well for 57% of respondents. However, 23% do not think it works well for their role.

74% of those at junior level feel it works for them and their role, whereas only 43% of director level respondents feel the same. More females (69%) feel it works for both them and their roles than their male counterparts (47%).

More productivity working from home vs workplace/office

A majority of 59% feel they are more productive working at home. Only 13% feel less productive. Women are more likely to feel “much more productive” vs their male counterparts, who in turn are more likely to feel “a little more productive”.

Covid has impacted how they want to work – and a hybrid model is it

Most respondents do not want to go back to the ways of working they had before. Overwhelmingly, irrespective of seniority or gender, they want to work in a hybrid way, with a mix of workplace and home-based working.

Want to work in a hybrid way – some home and some office/workplace based              73%

Want to work less hours/days                                                                                                    20%

Want to work remotely/at home only                                                                                      15%


25% of females would like to work reduced hours – double that of men. 15% don’t ever want to return to the workplace – with more females (18%) than males (10%) wanting to work permanently at home.


“Ireland’s marketing community has risen to the challenges presented by Covid. They’ve worked harder than ever, despite changing roles, reduced remuneration, working and managing teams remotely and often working with smaller budgets”, observes Sandra.   In this Pulse Survey it reveals that:

Marketing roles have changed

74% of respondents said their role has changed somewhat or a lot as a result of the crisis, in particular those at head of and director level.  There is a continued focus on strategy planning and digital comms, and more on better data & insights and on greater demand generation.

Marketing budgets have been hit

Marketing budgets have been cut for over half of all respondents. Sectors who have reduced budgets most include the drinks, hotel, tourism & travel, FMCG/food, motor, media & publishing sectors.

Marketing employment opportunities are reduced, but better than in April

More companies are hiring again more, although few are hiring a lot. 42% are recruiting permanently vs just 19% in April. 50% of large companies plan to do some hiring of permanent staff vs 32% of small companies. 35% are taking on contractors/ consultants compared to 19% in April.

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