Most U.S. consumers remain unsettled about the economy and cautious about returning to the workplace amid the lingering coronavirus pandemic, according to a survey by IBM’s Institute for Business Value, released earlier this week. The ongoing survey polled 7,000 Americans in July and found that most were more concerned about health, safety, and the economy than they were in June—and that shifting attitudes are leading to permanent changes in the way people live and work.
“... consumer attitudes continue to shift as the effects of the virus fluctuate around the country, and consumers are preparing themselves for more permanent changes in behavior,” Jesus Mantas, senior managing partner, IBM Services, said in a statement announcing the survey results. “These new behaviors define the new preferences that business leaders need to be able to deliver to meet consumers where they are. This is no longer a question of competitive advantage, it’s a matter of business survival.”
The July survey found that Covid-19 has made most Americans more concerned about their health and safety in general—72% said they are concerned about those issues, compared to 68% who said so in June. The survey also found that most are concerned about a “second wave” of Covid-19 later this year—again, 72% said so in July, compared to 65% in June. What’s more, 66% said they expect to see more global pandemic-like events in the future, compared with 60% who felt that way in June.
The result is a population that is increasingly comfortable working remotely and that expects clearly communicated safety protocols to be in place when they do return to the workplace. Employment-related results showed that:
84% of respondents said that when they can return to work, they would still like to work remotely at least occasionally, up 3% from what they said in June.
A growing majority also said they want employers to take “clear and active measures” to protect them from exposure to the virus when they return to the workplace, while also providing flexibility to help “ensure mental health and well-being.”
63% said there needs to be clear communication from employers about what is being done to sanitize the workplace (up from 54% in June), and 58% said employers should maintain social distancing protocols in the workplace (up from 49% in June).
41% said they feel strongly that their employer should provide special accommodations for individuals to address childcare needs—up 6 percentage points from June.
Other survey results point to an increasingly cautious American public nearly five months into the pandemic: 35% of respondents said they don’t plan on going to shopping centers or malls this year (compared to 27% in June); 66% said they would not visit an amusement park (up from 59% in June); and 64% said they won’t attend a live sporting event this year, up from 55% in June. There was a slight increase in dining out, however: 27% of respondents said they had already visited restaurants and bars in July, up from 21% in June.
In addition, just 13% of consumers said they think the economy will bounce back to where it was prior to Covid-19, down 3% from June.
The IBV said it has surveyed more than 54,000 U.S. consumers since April and plans to continue polling the public on these topics and more in the months ahead.
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