The Surrey Board of Trade has released the results of their second Surrey Pulse Survey today, which gives the only on-the-ground snapshot of how Surrey businesses are doing during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Since our last survey results that were released in early November, this 2nd Surrey Pulse Business survey shows that many Surrey businesses continue to be resilient,” said Anita Huberman, CEO, Surrey Board of Trade. “The key barriers to getting employees back to the office or workplace are social distancing requirements (38%), employees’ reluctance to return to the workplace due to safety concerns at the workplace (35%) and, to a slightly lesser extent, getting to and from work (22%). The complexity and cost of safety measures are other issues.”
COVID-19 IMPACTS ON BUSINESS
Of the survey respondents, 1.16% have closed their Surrey businesses permanently, while 6.4% have temporarily closed. While these numbers have increased when compared to the responses from October 2020, up from 0% and 5.3%, respectively, the number that have closed may be understated as closed businesses would be less likely to receive and/or respond to this survey. The other respondents are on a continuum in terms of degree of opening.
12.79% have partially re-opened;
23.84% have mostly or fully re-opened;
15.12% have seen their business increased; and,
15.12% have experienced no impact.
Over 14% percent of respondents have seen a decrease in revenue of at least 60%, compared to 21% of respondents in October.
SHIFT TO E-COMMERCE OR DIGITAL WORK
The number of respondents that have shifted to 100% digital has doubled since Fall 2020, while the proportion of businesses reporting at least some degree of a digital shift are similar in both periods.
When asked specifically about remote work, respondents indicated an expectation that the proportion of staff working remotely will decline over the next year. However, 15% of respondents indicated that at least 80% of their staff will be working remotely a year from now.
40% of respondents indicated that they are at/or exceeding pre-pandemic levels of full-time staff, down from 44% in the Fall. There was also a decrease in the number of Surrey businesses that reported that 40% or more of their full-time staff had been reduced.
KEY BARRIERS TO GETTING EMPLOYEES BACK TO WORK (AND RETAINING)
The key barriers to bringing back and/or retaining workers most cited by respondents were employees’ concerns about safety concerns at work and the rising number of virus cases in the community. After this, Surrey businesses cited staffing costs and social distancing requirements as the next greatest barriers in retaining staff. When it comes to getting staff to return to work during the pandemic, Surrey businesses shared that Provincial Health Orders/closures and employee preference to continue working remotely were their next greatest barriers.
EXTENT OF CERTAIN CHALLENGES
Disruptions in services or supplies needed to run one’s business (44%, down from 48% in October)
Staff absences due to voluntary/mandatory self-quarantine (38%, down from 46% in October)
Heightened public fear causing customers to avoid their location or services (42%, down from 44% in October)
Decreased demand for Surrey businesses’ products or services (47%, up from 41% in October)
Staff absences related to childcare or family care (37%, up from 32% in October)
Staff absences because the business cannot offer a work from home option (37%, up from 21% in October.
The number of Surrey businesses experiencing an increase in demand for their products or services also increased slightly, from 37% in the fall to 41% in January 2021.
USE OF EXISTING GOVERNMENT RELIEF PROGRAMS
The most used government programs continue to be Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS), Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA) and Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy (CERS). All others are either not needed or Surrey businesses do not qualify.
USEFULNESS OF TYPES OF ASSISTANCE PROGRAMS
The most popular types of assistance among Surrey businesses are:
1. General tax credits/cuts (85% believe very or somewhat useful)
2. Better/more payroll tax breaks (81%)
3. Zero interest loans (81%)
4. Greater economic stimulus funding like business improvement grants (80%)
The options of least interest to Surrey employers are:
1. Business counselling (40% not useful at all)
2. Better/more rent or lease assistance (39%)
3. Assistance with better/more technology implementation (37%)
4. Suspension on loan repayments (32%)
EMPLOYEE TRAINING PROGRAMS
Almost 60% of Surrey businesses in January 2021 have offered employee training in mental health/wellness and about 55% have offered training in skills for new products/services. Just over 50% provided soft skills training for managers and just over 15% offered workplace health & safety training.
40% of Surrey businesses indicated they need help with health & safety training and 30% indicated they need help with employee training in technology related to remote work.
QUESTIONS ABOUT VACCINES
Over 25% of respondents indicated that they were unclear on what their responsibilities are in ensuring their employees get vaccinated and 21% would like to know about their rights when it comes to employees refusing vaccines. 20% of respondents also wanted to know how they could ensure their employees are vaccinated.
EXPECTATIONS ON RETURNING TO PRE-COVID STAFF AND REVENUE LEVELS
When asked when they expect business to return to pre-COVID staffing and revenue levels, 22% of Surrey businesses indicated that they were now back to pre-pandemic levels and another 14% expected this to be the case within the first half of 2021. 37% of respondents indicated that they do not expect to reach pre-pandemic levels of staffing and revenue until at least 2022, while another almost 2% indicated that they do not expect to ever reach the same levels.
Of those who had responded to both the January 2021 survey and the October 2020 survey, 39% are feeling more optimistic than they were in October 2020, while 45% are feeling more pessimistic. 16 percent of respondents to both surveys are feeling similarly to that in the Fall.