A quarter of leaders though did see the numbers they employed fall, with a similar proportion seeing their headcount rise across 2020.

In relation to sales, 50% said they had decreased over the last 12 months, with 20% recording an increase and a quarter reporting they had remained the same.

The survey of 381 CEOs across a range of sectors, carried out by employers’ organisation Ibec, also found that 51% of respondents have seen absence rates in their firms remain the same since the pandemic began, while 29% have seen them increase.

88% cited the global economic downturn as one of the main challenges their business faces this year.

This was followed by the challenge of achieving profitability and the fallout from Brexit.

The availability of talent also remains a concern for three out of every four chief executives.

A similar number said the impact the pandemic has had on collaboration and innovation has been a challenge.

While 72% are concerned about the challenge of returning staff to the office once the pandemic ends.

Half also referred to the low carbon transition agenda as a challenge.

“In 2021, Irish business will have to deal with a much-altered landscape in both local and global terms, as the new post-Brexit reality continues to take shape and Covid disruptions endure,” said Ibec boss, Danny McCoy.

“The findings show that despite these challenges, CEOs are looking beyond this disruptive period that we find ourselves in, that they are buoyed by the prospect of the widespread availability of a vaccine in the coming months and are now planning accordingly.”

Two thirds of those who answered the survey said Covid-19 will mean a permanent change to their business models.

Among the main focuses for the respondents over the next three years are increased investment in technology, succession planning and development of new products and services.

The CEOs are also looking to promote inclusivity in their firms as well as the development of new business processes for existing products.