A follow-up to an April survey of Hoosier business leaders indicates that the economic and operational impacts of the pandemic remain severe with only a few incremental improvements, says the Indiana Chamber of Commerce.
The organization conducted the survey of 634 company executives in late June.
“A positive spin is we are starting to trend in the right direction during this reopening period. The survey shows that and we are hearing that directly when we speak to our member businesses,” says Kevin Brinegar, Indiana Chamber president and CEO. “But the results also reinforce that this recovery is going to be a long haul – not months, but likely a year or longer before things resemble ’normal’ levels of activity.”
During this second survey, on a 1-10 scale of business impact thus far (10 being the highest level), the average response was 6.5, compared to 7.2 in April. The four biggest effects stayed constant: revenue loss, 79% (80% last time); cash flow concerns, 42% (51%); suspended operations (at least temporarily), 32% (34%) and employee layoffs, 25% (32%).
The biggest drop – cash flow concerns – is partly attributable to more companies having now obtained federal assistance. Sixty-eight percent shared they received a Paycheck Protection Program loan as compared to 43% previously, while 7% received an Economic Injury Disaster Loan. Only 1.3% said they had applied for a loan but didn’t get it.
Looking at the long-term ramifications brought about by the pandemic, more than 62% cited changing their business model to adapt to a new reality. In addition, 34% said that remote work would continue for some or all employees.
On a related note, when asked about productivity of employees working remotely: 53% said they were less productive (37% “slightly less productive” and 16% “significantly less productive”), 34% indicated “no change” in the level and 12% were more productive (9% “slightly more productive” and 3% “much more productive”).
“Employers have adapted and understand there is a new normal until we have a proven COVID-19 vaccine. That fundamentally changes how businesses operate on a daily basis. For many, that means being more nimble and innovative than they’ve ever been,” Brinegar states.
The two current challenges that rose to the top for respondents were customer retention and personnel, evenly divided at 36% each. In April, customer retention was at 48% and finances was right behind at 46%, with personnel at 38%.
Meanwhile, nearly a quarter of employers said they were concerned about being sued by an employee or customer who claims to have contracted COVID-19 at the workplace or as a result of company actions.
That last number likely would be much higher, says Brinegar, if not for promised federal legislation this summer to address the liability matter. “Still, our push will be for the state to adopt its own policy in the 2021 General Assembly to ensure the best protections are in place.”
The survey of Indiana Chamber members and investors was conducted June 22-29. More than 55% of participants have fewer than 50 employees, with 22% between 100 and 500 employees. A broad cross section of industries was represented with manufacturing accounting for just over 25% of the total.
Charts of the key findings are available at www.indianachamber.com/charts.
The Indiana Chamber’s Road to Recovery resource center (www.indianachamber.com/roadtorecovery) has seen over 30,000 visitors and made available 18 free on-demand webinars, accessed by more than 10,000, in the last few months