The return to work is underway for Suffolk businesses but there are worries about the health of staff

The 13th Suffolk Chamber of Commerce survey into how its members are responding to the spread of the COVID-19 virus shows an accelerating momentum in the numbers of businesses re-opening and staff returning to productive work.

Conducted earlier this week, the survey marks a break with its predecessors as new questions have been introduced that look specifically at how well prepared Suffolk Chambers are for the recovery phase. The topics currently under investigation relate to re-opening plans and any health and wellbeing issues that might impact on their long-term success.

This survey, which drew in 124 replies, suggests that the overwhelming majority either have or are about to implement their own return to work plans.

53% of businesses have now fully re-opened, with a further 16% of firms saying that there is nothing stopping them from trading. Those companies that have re-opened are successfully employing a range of measures aimed to minimise the spread of COVID-19:

–          75% of firms have introduced social distancing in their work place

–          59% of firms have adopted flexible working

–          33% of firms are rotating staff to meet guidelines in their workplaces

However, just over one in 10 of respondents said they were not planning to re-open yet due to a lack of customer demand, with 31% of theses in the catering, hospitality and retail sectors. A further 6% of firms are struggling to re-start operations, either because they cannot meet COVID-19 guidelines or because of cashflow issues.

Furthermore, the survey showed that in spite of the general determination of Suffolk businesses to recover from the COVID-19 lockdown, there were concerns about its impact on the health and wellbeing of owners and staff alike.

–          26% of business owners/ managers said they are feeling anxious and stressed at work, with another 43% feeling slightly anxious and stressed at work.

–          63% of the businesses reported that their staff are facing anxiety issues, 47% are stressed, 29% are facing sleeping problems and 27% of are worried about debt.

Paul Simon, Suffolk Chamber’s head of communications & campaigns, said: “This figure suggests that the great return to work is underway, facilitated by an enormous amount of forethought and planning by business leaders during the lockdown. After all the issues – including access to cashflow – faced by Suffolk businesses over the last three months, this is incredibly good news for the future prosperity of the county.

“However, the worrying, and arguably not unexpected, reports of the impact of the lockdown on the mental health and wellbeing of business owners and their staff suggests that the recovery phase in Suffolk will only be sustainably successful if the county takes a strategic view to supporting all of its people of working age to adapt to the ‘new’ normal.”

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