Over half of small businesses worry social distancing will hurt their chances of survival: Survey

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A cone to promote social distancing sits on the floor of a restaurant and bar in Austin, Texas, U.S., on Saturday, May 23, 2020.

Alex Scott | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Governors across the U.S. are allowing restaurants to reopen, some limited to outdoor dining but others at full capacity. A new survey shows one reason why there’s pressure to get Main Street businesses like dining back to normal: over half (55%) of small business owners are worried that continued social distancing measures that limit business capacity will harm their survival chances.

That’s according to a new survey from Verizon Business, released on Monday, that was conducted by Morning Consult and focused on 600 small- and medium-size businesses that are currently open or plan to reopen. The national study was done Aug. 26 through Sept. 4, 2020 and surveyed businesses in a wide range of industries from construction and retail to restaurants, bars and real estate.

A little over half (52%) of small business decision makers reported concerns about their own job security, down from 56% in the previous wave of the survey conducted in April.

Even as business owners worry about the ongoing effects of the public health crisis, many are feeling better about their financial health than in April when shutdowns were spreading across the U.S. But conditions do remain challenging. Sixty-seven percent of those taking the survey reported declining sales, which was an improvement from 78% in April. 

If conditions stay the same, 72% believe they can stay open at least six months or longer.

“It’s crucial for us to understand the obstacles our small business customers are facing,” said TJ Fox, President of Verizon Business Markets, in a survey release.

Work from home on Main Street

Small businesses are adapting to the new work environment created by the Covid-19 pandemic, with 36% saying they have implemented new systems or technologies to allow for remote collaboration. But among these businesses, 67% reported challenges, and risk of employee burnout. Fifty-six percent of small businesses with remote staff say work-from-home has blurred the lines between work and personal life.

But as in the corporate world, the picture is mixed when it comes to work from home. Sixty-two percent of small businesses with remote staff say remote work has allowed employees to balance work and personal responsibilities more effectively, but 59% of small businesses with remote staff say remote work has made it more difficult for employees to feel connected to one another. Less than half (49%) say remote work has boosted employee satisfaction and morale. 

Another key finding related to the politics of coronavirus: 81% of small business owners, regardless of their party affiliation, say the 2020 election will impact the small business sector, while 57% say it will have direct consequences for their business. These findings come as lawmakers in Washington D.C. still negotiate over another round of financial relief for businesses, as well as changes to loan requirements of the existing Paycheck Protection Program.

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