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Findings from Our Latest COVID-19 Snap Polls

  • Management
  • Article
  • 6 min. Read
  • Last Updated: 05/27/2020

A sign in the window of a closed business due to COVID-19
We asked 300 business owners across the U.S. about how they’re managing their business, supporting employees, staying financially fit, and planning for re-opening. Here’s what they had to say as the country begins to get back to work.

Table of Contents

Paychex has been conducting weekly “snap polls” to gain insights into business attitudes during the COVID-19 pandemic. We asked 300 business owners across the U.S. about how they’re managing their business, supporting employees, staying financially fit, and planning for re-opening. Here’s what they had to say as the country begins to get back to work.

Our Data Sample

U.S. business owners with 2-500 employees were surveyed in three waves from April 17 to May 4. Each survey has a 5.66% margin of error. The findings in this article are from survey data collected May 15-17, 2020.

Increased Optimism of Businesses Outlook

Since the beginning of May, the average business outlook has increased slightly, from 46 to 51 on a scale of 1 to 100 (1 = extremely pessimistic and 100 = extremely optimistic). Large businesses and fast-growing companies—those projected to grow at a rate of 10% or more this year—are more optimistic than their peers, ranking at 60 and 75, respectively. From an industry perspective, there is no significant difference when it comes to the level of optimism; in fact, 63% of businesses surveyed, across the board, said they believe the worst is behind them. However, only 39% believe the worst is behind for the U.S. economy.

Businesses see recovery from COVID-19

More than half of respondents think it will take seven or more months for the economy to get back to normal. However, business owners are optimistic about their own recovery: almost half (45%) of respondents think it’ll take three or fewer months for their business to recover, and two in five have already returned to their pre-COVID-19 revenue. From a business size perspective, largest businesses are the most optimistic about their recovery.

Businesses Top Priorities While Reopening

The top priorities for businesses as they begin to reopen include:

• Maintaining customer relationships.

• Managing business as usual.

• Reducing expenses.

• Revising their go-to-market approach.

Reopening Concerns

As businesses begin to open their doors, they reported health, safety, and financial concerns. The results reflected:

  • 1 in 3 businesses are concerned that they won’t have sufficient customer demand when they reopen.
  • 1 in 3 businesses are also worried about keeping employees safe at work.
  • 2 in 5 businesses reported they’re worried about employee concerns over getting infected by other employees or customers.
  • 1 in 5 are concerned about getting infected via mass transit on their commute.

The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP)

As of May 17, 2020, two out of every five businesses surveyed applied for a PPP loan. Of these businesses, three in five have now received payment—twice as many compared to two weeks prior. Businesses with 2-49 employees are twice as likely to have received a PPP loan as businesses with 50-500 employees.

However, many businesses have concerns about their PPP loans: 40% of businesses are still unclear about how to get PPP loan forgiveness, and 25% don’t think their loan will be enough for them to survive. That said, two in three businesses are very or extremely confident they will meet the requirements for loan forgiveness.

Spending and Hiring

Half of businesses surveyed said they are spending less than they were a month ago; being able to “do more with less” is a common mindset.

Half of respondents said they are also hiring fewer new employees than they were a month ago. Larger businesses, fast-growth businesses, and businesses run by millennials are much more likely to hire new employees compared to their peers.

Compensation & Benefits

Roughly 17% of businesses have cut employee hours while maintaining pay, and another 17% plan to do so. The biggest changes business owners plan to make to benefits will be increasing telecommuting and schedule flexibility (25% of businesses said they will do each).

Business Adaptation

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, 25% of businesses have updated their technology and have increased their use of/presence on social media.

One-third of businesses said they will use technology more once they return to business-as-usual, to improve customer service. The same number plan to increase technology use to help their teams collaborate more effectively, as well as to improve sales and marketing.

Business Concerns of a Potential Second Wave

80% of businesses are somewhat or very concerned about a possible second wave of infection, and 60% said they believe they could survive a second wave financially.

Small Businesses are Optimistic of Recovery

In general, small businesses are optimistic about their pandemic recovery, with many believing the worst is behind them. However, this is not indicative of their feelings about an economic recovery, with many still believing there’s a long way to go before the economy bounces back from the pandemic. As companies look to “do more with less” moving forward, they’re turning to technology to improve efficiencies and the customer experience, and adapting their benefits to better accommodate employees amid the new normal.

However, despite this optimism, many businesses still have concerns as they begin reopening, including employee health and safety, and the level of customer demand.


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* This content is for educational purposes only, is not intended to provide specific legal advice, and should not be used as a substitute for the legal advice of a qualified attorney or other professional. The information may not reflect the most current legal developments, may be changed without notice and is not guaranteed to be complete, correct, or up-to-date.

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