We surveyed firms in Wales in May 2020, after the start of the first lockdown, to gauge what the impact of the pandemic was having on them. As part of our tracking of the continuing impacts of the pandemic on business we surveyed firms again. Below is a summary of results from the survey.
Firms Operating: Over the summer most firms were fully operational (82%) with the remainder operating in a partial mode.
Furlough: The majority of firms had no staff on furlough at this time. 10% had furloughed staff.
Although the scheme was due to end at the end of September, it has now been extended. We shall be again asking firms their experience of the scheme and how it has affected their operation in the next iteration of the survey.
Working from home: A mixed picture with a range of arrangements – from all staff; 50%; 25%; and 10% – working at home.
Future Working Arrangements: Some firms are considering the prospect of half of all staff working from home in the future. Other firms thought that maybe 25% or 10% of staff would be home working, while a number forecast no home working for their business.
Impact on Operations: Firms had made general adjustments. Some firms report a reduction in output (10% in certain areas), whilst measures taken slowed the input and output of materials and goods from sites. Measures include the use of PPE, floor-markers, and barriers erected to ensure physical distancing. Such measures affect communication and team dynamics on-site, and whilst these are being overcome it is an added effort which affects the operation of the business. Training courses occur with fewer people attending at any one time; rest periods are being staggered; and morale has been affected in some firms.
Home working is now important but some staff are reporting feeling more isolated. There is less noise disruption for those still at the firm’s premises, but other factors affect firms’ productivity such as different distractions affecting home working, and difficulties with communications and information exchange – which tends to cancel out improvements in work-environment at the premises.
Government Support: Firms report that the support forthcoming (loans and furlough) has been helpful. However, some still fall through gaps in support packages. A number did not qualify for support, and others recognise that they did not need, and did not apply for any support. A minority of firms said that the Track and Trace system had posed difficulties.
General Impact on the Business of Coronavirus: Overall firms report a depression in business activity, although one firm could report an increase in sales. With most, however, the following issues have been quoted:
• customers being closed leading to contraction in the market
• transport sector customers have been badly affected by a reduction in activity
• reduction in sales, both to local and export markets
• reduced non-Covid patient demand in the health sector
• reduced tourism markets
• issues with suppliers being unable to meet usual demand