Nearly half of CEOs would like to mandate workers back to the office. Here's the one holdup

Nearly half of CEOs would like to mandate workers back to the office. Here’s the one holdup

What are CEOs thinking right now?

To find out, Fortune ran a new CEO survey, conducted in collaboration with Deloitte. We invited the top executive at Fortune 500 companies, Fortune Global 500 companies, and some members of our global Fortune community to participate.

In total, 121 CEOs representing more than 15 industries responded to the survey. It was fielded between September 28 and October 6, 2022.


The numbers to know 


  • … of CEOs have a “pessimistic” 12-month outlook for the global economy.


  • … of CEOs have a “pessimistic” 12-month outlook for their company performance.


  • … of CEOs agree with the following statement: “I would like my employees to be back in the office, but I don’t feel able to mandate it, due to tight talent competition


  • … of CEOs expect inflation to disrupt their business over the next 12 months. Back in June, that figure was 82%.

Big picture

  • CEOs are both bearish and bullish. Over the next 12 months, CEOs have a pessimistic outlook for the global economy. Meanwhile, they’re fairly bullish on their own companies.

A few deeper takeaways

Outlooks are weakening.

Back in June, 100% of CEOs said their 12-month company outlook could be described as “very strong, strong, or modest.” The latest poll has it down to 85%.

On one hand, that’s hardly bearish. On the other hand, the trajectory is clear: CEO outlooks are weakening in the face of global uncertainty and monetary tightening.

Inflation woes to carry over into 2023.

While the Fed has moved into full-blown inflation fighting mode, CEOs aren’t convinced inflation will make a fast exit. Among the CEOs we surveyed, 74% expect inflation to continue disrupting business strategy over the coming year.

The silver lining? Back in June, 82% of CEOs told us they thought inflation would disrupt their business over the coming year.

Bearish and bullish?

The vast majority of CEOs have a pessimistic 12-month outlook for the global economy (76%). However, only a tiny fraction of CEOs are bearish on their own industry (17%) or their company performance (5%).

Are CEOs simply seeing through rose colored glasses? Or do current business conditions simply remain that strong?

Talent remains top of mind.

Monetary tightening has certainly caused pain in rate sensitive sectors like the housing market, however, it has done little so far to cool the hot labor market.

Among the CEOs we surveyed, 71% agree that the talent shortage will continue over the coming six months. 

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