New Zealand moved into an Alert Level 4 lockdown 11.59pm on August 17, the same day the first case of the delta variant was detected in the Auckland community.
In the week that followed, Trust Tairāwhiti launched an online survey to capture the impacts the lockdown was having on local business owners and operators.
Accessible through the Trust website, the short survey asked questions around the areas of business affected by lockdown, types of support that would be useful, uptake of Government financial support and employee wellbeing. The survey opened on August 20 and closed on the night of September 7, just as the region moved into Delta Alert Level 2.
The Trust conducted a similar survey during lockdown in April 2020 and repeating this approach was an effective way to compare the impacts on businesses for both lockdowns.
We kept the survey brief and designed the questions to get a clear picture of how businesses are going. The intent is to provide insights to regional decision makers and for use within the Trust to determine what support is needed to help businesses recover.
The questions were:
- What sector is your business in?
- Select the aspects of your business currently affected by COVID-19.
- How concerned are you about the impacts of COVID-19 on your business? 5 being very concerned and 1 being not concerned.
- Select the areas where support would be most beneficial for your business.
- Select the forms of support you would find most valuable.
- Has your business accessed either or both of the following support options?
- Please rate the overall wellbeing of your team during this time on a 1-5 scale. 5 being excellent and 1 being poor.
There were 63 responses to the survey. The majority of respondents were from the tourism, retail and service sectors.
The results show businesses are feeling more comfortable during the current lockdown, with the overall concern sentiment sitting at 3.6 (on a scale of 5 being very concerned, 1 being not concerned) compared with around 4.2 in the 2020 lockdown. This could be a result of RBP funding last year for business planning, systems and financial management that was delivered through professional service providers.
The greatest impact areas on businesses for this lockdown are revenue and income, short-term cashflow and the ability for staff to perform their roles. Supply chain, perishable inventory and exporting are the lowest concern points.
The average wellbeing sentiment is 3.3 out of 5.
The most requested area of support for businesses in the survey was digital enablement, followed by marketing and financial management. In last year’s lockdown business planning, systems and operations were the most requested and these priorities have reduced, showing greater business resilience in these areas.
Survey results show businesses would prefer support via online resources, followed by mentoring and meeting with a professional service provider. Last lockdown professional service providers were the preferred method. Workshops and calling an advice line were the least requested form of support this year.
About 71 percent of businesses have accessed the Government’s wage subsidy and/or the resurgence payment.
Digital is king, this is the area where most businesses want support and the method they would prefer to receive it. The results indicate our businesses are looking to better use technology to support their businesses during lockdown.
The strong demand for business planning and digital enablement among smaller businesses show there is a lot of work to be done in these areas.
Most businesses are utilising the Government’s financial support, with just 6.8 percent of respondents not accessing funding.
The need for forums and discussion groups as support mechanisms has significantly decreased compared to last year’s survey. This could be due to business owners feeling less isolated and disconnected from their teams than they were during the last lockdown.
Wellbeing of people and their ability to work in lockdown has stayed the same across lockdown 1 and 2 in Tairāwhiti, coming in 3rd and 4th behind financial concerns. Wellbeing of people and their ability to work from home efficiently seem to be closely linked.
The business growth team see an opportunity to refine several aspects of their workplan to support businesses to recover and return to BAU, using the results from the survey to direct this. The existing workplan is well-positioned to address the primary challenges businesses are facing given that much of what we are seeing is an amplification of existing needs opposed to new ones.