Comms leaders split on COVID-19 Plan B impact – including Christmas parties

One in two agency and in-house comms chiefs expect the Government's Plan B COVID-19 measures to have little or no impact on business, although many are uncertain – while almost two-thirds will allow staff to continue working from the office, new research suggests.

Boris Johnson announcing the Plan B move at a press conference at 10 Downing Street on 8 December (Photo: Adrian Dennis-WPA Pool/Getty Images)
Boris Johnson announcing the Plan B move at a press conference at 10 Downing Street on 8 December (Photo: Adrian Dennis-WPA Pool/Getty Images)

Meanwhile, bosses are split on Christmas party plans, according to the PRCA Plan B Pulse Check study carried out by Question & Retain.

Under Plan B measures for England, people have been advised to work from home if they can from Monday (13 December). The wearing of face masks in most public indoor venues, and a mandatory 'COVID Pass' in specific settings, are also required under the measures introduced due to the spread of the new Omicron variant. Meanwhile, the rollout of the vaccine booster programme has been accelerated.

Asked about the impact of the measures on business prospects, 36 per cent of respondents expect it to have no effect and 14 per cent predict a small effect. Few expect a moderate (seven per cent) or significant impact (four per cent).

However, 39 per cent are "unsure at this point".

Regarding the office, 64 per cent will give staff the option to work there, while 25 per cent will not and 11 per cent are unsure.

Industry bosses were also asked if their Christmas party will go ahead. Just 29 per cent said yes to an in-person party, with seven per cent saying it will be a virtual one.

One in five (21 per cent) have cancelled the annual gathering, while 11 per cent did not plan to have one anyway and 14 per cent had it already. A significant minority – 18 per cent – remain unsure.

PRCA director-general Francis Ingham said: “The PR and communications industry is split down the line about the impact of Plan B measures. What cannot be questioned is our industry’s ability to react and adapt to changes while delivering value for clients, people and organisations. The past 18 months have proven our ability and I’ve no doubt we will meet the challenges that lie ahead.

"Despite the Government’s guidance on working from home, these figures show many (64 per cent) will allow their employees the opportunity to work from the office, should they wish. Our sector has continually adapted to the impact of the pandemic, and this is yet another example of how they are being reactive, yet agile to meet business and employee needs."

Annabel Dunstan, founder and chief executive of Question & Retain, said: “We are seeing a mixed picture here, but it is hardly unsurprising when there have been so many varying messages from the Government over the past few weeks.

"Business leaders are working hard to do the right thing, balancing the physical health of staff along with business impact and of course mental health. Leaders are expressing cautious optimism with regards to the business impact of Plan B, with half saying it will have little or no impact. Interestingly, two-thirds of respondents are railing against government advice to work from home and allowing access to offices still. However, less than a third are planning to go ahead with their Christmas party and so perhaps a sense that chance collisions over the photocopier are deemed riskier than ever!”

How has your agency or in-house team responded to the new measures, especially the work-from-home advice? What about external meetings with media or clients, and social events for teams? Let us know by emailing

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