It has been one year since the first case of COVID-19 was identified in Tennessee and sent the state toward a new normal. Nearly 200 Nashville Post readers recently responded to a survey about how their businesses have managed operational changes and the economic fallout of the pandemic. Below are some of those results accompanied by insights and best practices tips from Complete Health Care founder and CEO Ty Babcock.
Work-from-home or in-person?
A majority of respondents said more than half of their workforce continue to work remotely, with 25 percent reporting all of their employees are back to work in-person. The survey did not break down responses by industry.
Approximately 17 percent of businesses said they have given up some office space in favor of working remotely, and another 23 percent are considering giving up more office space. Of those who have returned to work in person, 48 percent have rearranged their floor layout to accommodate social distancing. (For more on changing dynamics in the real estate dynamics, see our Q&A with Butler Snow attorney Robert Holland.)
“People should social distance as best they can,” Babcock says. “But the thing that they have to make sure they are doing is masking. We know we’ve has cases already of people that have been fully vaccinated, who actually caught COVID afterward. They’re not sick, but what the vaccine is designed to do is to make you not get as sick — we hope it will prevent transmission, but we’ve seen already that people can get vaccinated and still catch it. So for that reason, I would say regardless of vaccine status [...] masking is the single most important thing. And get people tested when they are showing symptoms."
With COVID-19 vaccines become more widely available, only 22 percent of leaders in our survey said they plan to provide incentives to their employees to get vaccinated while 15 percent said they intend to mandate it.
Of those who will provide incentives, 21 organizations said they plan to provide additional paid time off. Eight said they will offer a financial incentive and three are offering discounts to employee health plans.
"In my experience, I've never really seen top-down mandates be very effective — especially when, at this point, you're going to have to have all sorts of carve-outs for these exemption policies. I think educating people on the whys and safety and the numbers, and providing some incentives to do it, you're going to get a lot better buy-in from people," Babcock says.
Middle Tennessee companies appear to have been largely resilient to the economic fallout of the pandemic, with 83 percent reporting their teams either grew or stayed the same size over the past year and more than 55 percent saying they're eyeing growth this next year.
Nearly half of respondents tapped into the first round of funding from the Paycheck Protection Program, the majority of them receiving less than $500,000. Nine percent said they received more than $1 million.