Long-term business concerns grow as continuity fears wane in MRA survey

Economic indicators

When Waukesha-based employer association MRA started surveying businesses on their coronavirus fears in March, business continuity was a top concern.

In the organization’s first survey, done the week of March 11, 65% of respondents were moderately or extremely concerned about continuity, including their supply chain, financial implications and temporary shutdowns.

In the second survey, done the week of March 20, that figure jumped to 89% including a majority that were extremely concerned.

But as the virus outbreak and the economic fallout from the response to it have dragged on, business concerns have shifted toward long-term considerations.

In the first survey, just 42% of businesses were moderately or extremely concerned about the long-term implications from coronavirus. In the most recent survey, done the week of April 17, that figure increased to 62%.

The latest survey included 427 organizations from across MRA’s network in the Midwest. More than two-thirds of respondents were at companies with 51 to 500 employees and another 18% had less than 50 employees. A majority of the respondents, 56%, were in the manufacturing sector.

The concern for business continuity remains high with 75% extremely or moderately concerned in the survey done the week of April 10. The trend, however, has been away from extreme concern, which accounted for about one-third of respondents in the April 10 survey, down from the majority a few weeks earlier.

“While the PPP has provided some much-needed, immediate relief for small business owners, now is the critical time for employers to get into recovery mode,” said Jim Morgan, MRA vice president leading the organization’s recovery program.

Morgan said businesses should start their recovery work by examining the ways the crisis caught them by surprise, how it has changed operations, what worked during the crisis, what are the biggest challenges going forward and whether the company has a plan for returning to work.

“A successful recovery plan requires flexibility, agility, and a comprehensive return to work transition strategy,” Morgan said. “Just as returning to work will not be a flip of the switch, recovery will need to be a steady, planned reopening process.”

The latest survey also provided some insight into safety measures businesses are taking, including 76% providing, requiring or encouraging employees to wear face masks, up form 70% the week of April 10.

The number of employers not taking employee temperatures was essentially flat at 60%. The number of employers requiring or encouraging employees to take their own temperature or complete a questionnaire on temperature increased from 46% to 49%.

More than half of companies, 51%, are not taking the temperature of visitors to their company.

On compensation, just 12% of employers said they are offering employees hazard pay. Among those offering hazard pay, 47% did it through a $1 to $3 per hour increase in pay and 18% used a one-time cash bonus.

A greater percentage of employers, 26%, said they were giving employees appreciation pay. A one-time cash bonus was the top approach at 35%, followed by 24% using gift cards and 15% giving cash bonuses at various intervals.

On workforce, 50% of respondents said they are maintaining their current workforce while 28% are hiring and 20% are doing temporary layoffs or furloughs.

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Arthur covers banking and finance and the economy at BizTimes while also leading special projects as an associate editor. He also spent five years covering manufacturing at BizTimes. He previously was managing editor at The Waukesha Freeman. He is a graduate of Carroll University and did graduate coursework at Marquette. A native of southeastern Wisconsin, he is also a nationally certified gymnastics judge and enjoys golf on the weekends.

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