Almost a quarter of businesses will put a freeze on recruitment following the UK's vote to leave the European Union and 22 per cent are planning to move some operations overseas, according to a snap survey.
The poll by the Institute of Directors found that 64 per cent of its members think the result is bad news for their business, against 23 per cent who said it is positive. Nine per cent said it will make no difference.
Five per cent plan to make redundancies in the wake of the Brexit vote, although 32 per cent said hiring will continue at the same pace.
Only one per cent of firms said they will bring some operations back to the UK following the referendum result.
Over a third - 36 per cent - said the result will force them to cut investment, while nine per cent plan an increase. Just under half - 44 per cent - will not change their investment plans.
Three-quarters of business leaders protecting the economy from market turbulence must be the top priority now. This came ahead of securing a new trade deal with the EU.
Firms are, however, willing to be patient, with 51 per cent saying getting a good deal is more important that wrapping things up quickly.
Simon Walker director-general of the IoD, said: "Businesses will be busy working out how they are going to adapt and succeed after the referendum result. But we can't sugar-coat this - many of our members are feeling anxious. A majority of business leaders think the vote for Brexit is bad for them, and as a result plans for investment and hiring are being put on hold or scaled back."
"There is no point crying over spilled milk. We will not lose our faith in the ability of British firms to overcome these obstacles, but these results highlight the importance of the Bank of England maintaining stability in the financial system. It is crucial that the banks do not starve businesses of cash.
"Businesses have a clear message to those who may wish to replace David Cameron as Prime Minister: during the referendum campaign we were promised an open and outward-looking country after Brexit, now it must be delivered."