Amid the historic coronavirus pandemic, businesses are adapting by making major changes to their operations, including increased use of technology, according to the latest PNC semi-annual survey of small and mid-size business owners and executives, which concluded Sept. 8.
Eight in 10 business owners reported that they have made adaptations in response to COVID-19, including safety changes in the form of new procedures or physical modifications, while others have adopted work-from-home policies.
“Business owners have learned that the previous status quo won’t work now. The majority of businesses have reconfigured their operations and for many, these changes will be permanent,” says PNC chief economist, Gus Faucher. “Their confidence may be shaken, but we know through the history of this survey that business owners are resilient and they know how to adapt to change.”
According to the survey, half of businesses report increased use of technology since the outbreak began. Nearly three in 10 have added or increased the use of electronic or touchless payment systems, electronic/website-enabled sales or electronic banking/cash flow management services and 19 percent increased use of fraud/identity protection tools.
The pandemic has also forced many businesses to shake up their product lineups to better align with consumers’ new habits. A third of business owners report making changes either to the way they sell or deliver their products and services or to the types of products and services they offer.
Despite these positive signs of transformation and resilience, the drop in business activity over recent months forced many to take drastic measures through workforce reductions; nearly four in 10 businesses have cut workers since the start of the pandemic, although for 87 percent of those, the decrease is considered temporary or a furlough. In fact, 58 percent of the businesses who had temporary layoffs or furloughs have already begun rehiring.
Faucher said that while the worst may be over and economic activity is on the rebound, the “new normal” doesn’t mean a return to robust job and business growth that existed early in 2020.