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TriNet and The Harris Poll Reveal Survey Results Highlighting COVID-19 Preparedness and Resiliency of Small and Medium-Size Businesses

Nearly two-thirds of SMBs expect business to improve or return to normal

Dublin, CA — May 29, 2020 — TriNet, a leading provider of comprehensive human resources, partnered with The Harris Poll to conduct industry-wide pulse surveys to better understand broad COVID-19 sentiment beyond its own small and medium-size business (SMB) customers. The latest round of surveys, released in a whitepaper today, reveal how SMB owners are adapting to the current situation, dealing with the impact of the pandemic on their business and preparing for business continuity for the future.

According to the survey results 64% of SMB leaders expect their businesses to emerge either stronger or the same as before the pandemic, as most states across the U.S. gradually lift shelter in place orders. Additionally, 88% of SMBs are either creating or amending their business continuity plans after their experiences with the pandemic, including prioritizing health and safety of their employees.

The three surveys were conducted with leaders at over 500 SMBs from April 28 – May 8. Detailed results of the surveys can be found in the whitepaper issued by TriNet.

“Although this pandemic has been one of the most difficult challenges many SMBs have faced, including direct impacts on revenue, employee health and wellness, morale, and plans for the future, we find in these results an underlying optimism and agility, despite the unprecedented hardships. This is the kind of optimism and agility that has come to define the SMB community and will help our economy to move forward and recover,” stated John Gerzema, CEO at The Harris Poll.

Lower SMB Revenue

The challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic have been particularly difficult for SMBs. The survey found 83% are experiencing decreased revenues since February, with almost one in four seeing their revenue decline by more than 50%.

While revenues are down, optimism and confidence levels are rising. As reported in the first wave of surveys, four out of five companies made strategic investments in March and early April to keep business operational. Their investments are paying off – as businesses begin to turn on their lights and open their doors to customers, 86% of SMB leaders say their business has handled the challenges brought on by the pandemic well and almost two-thirds (64%) expect their business to be stronger or the same as it was before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Lost revenue has been a major hardship for SMBs, but one-third of respondents cite the uncertainty of the situation and the unknown of when “normal” will return as their biggest challenge. The most difficult areas of dealing with the pandemic for SMBs include:

  • Uncertainty – not knowing when “normal” will return (31%)
  • Finances – lost sales, making payroll, paying expenses (26%)
  • Safety/health concerns – keeping employees and customers healthy (19%)
  • Employees – layoffs/furloughs, productivity, remote work (18%)
  • Operations – supply chain issues, delayed delivery, stores/locations closed/reduced hours (7%)

Business Continuity

The COVID-19 pandemic has shed new light on the need for business continuity plans for SMB leaders. While most SMBs had a formalized continuity plan in place before the COVID-19 crisis hit, only 18% of these plans accounted for pandemics. Even though most companies weren’t thinking about a pandemic as they created their plans, about two-thirds with plans believe what they had in place was effective in helping them address the current situation.

Despite about half of companies not updating their plans in the past 12 months, nearly all of the respondents (88%) are either now creating plans or amending their existing plans after their experiences with the pandemic. Over half (53%) of those who are making these changes are prioritizing employee health and safety, and the same amount will also revise their company’s work-from-home policies.

Other areas businesses have already made or plan to make changes to continuity plans in the future include:

  • Improve risk assessment (45%)
  • Enhance employee communication plan (43%)
  • Identify critical products/service that must be delivered in a crisis (33%)
  • Review/revise sick leave policies (28%)
  • Review/revise healthcare coverage (26%)
  • Implement a customer helpline (18%)

Government Support

While resiliency has remained strong, confidence in government support is an area that has waxed and waned throughout. Consensus among SMB leaders that the government is doing enough to support their businesses during this time was measured at 58% between April 3–6. Since early April, these numbers became very volatile and dropped to a low of 38% between April 28–May 1, before rising to where it most recently stood on May 5–8 at 46%.

Impact of COVID-19 on the Workforce

SMBs have had to adjust their workforce to address the changing needs of their business during these unprecedented times. As of May 5-8, six in ten SMB leaders (60%) have had to reduce their workforce in some way, including one or more of the following:

  • Reducing employee hours (47%)
  • Furloughing employees (26%)
  • Laying off employees (22%)

Furthermore, business models, along with products/service offerings, were greatly affected by the current situation, with 57% of SMB leaders (as of May 5–8) making one or more of the following types of changes to their business:

  • Shifted business model to be more online/virtual (40%)
  • Changed product/service offering to address pandemic (20%)
  • Changed product/service offering to keep revenue coming in (18%)

More information on TriNet’s continually updated resources for SMBs around COVID-19 can be found on TriNet’s Business Resiliency and Preparedness Center.

For this research, TriNet teamed with The Harris Poll to conduct an online survey of more than 500 business leaders in U.S. companies with 5 to 249 employees between April 28–May 1, 2020 for the eighth wave, April 30–May 3, 2020 for the ninth wave and May 5–8, 2020 for the tenth wave. Business leaders were qualified as either owners/partners or C-level executives.

About TriNet
TriNet (NYSE: TNET) provides small and medium-size businesses (SMBs) with full-service HR solutions tailored by industry. To free SMBs from HR complexities, TriNet offers access to human capital expertise, benefits, risk mitigation and compliance, payroll and real-time technology. From Main Street to Wall Street, TriNet empowers SMBs to focus on what matters
most—growing their business. TriNet, incredible starts here. For more information, visit or follow us on Twitter.

Alex Bauer
(510) 875-7201

Fatima Afzal
TriNet /
(510) 875-7265

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