Graham Kilmer

Surveys Show Return to Pre-Pandemic Activity

MMAC surveys find rising consumer confidence, more workers returning to offices.

By - Jun 2nd, 2021 03:38 pm
411 Building. Photo by Mariiana Tzotcheva

411 Building. Photo by Mariiana Tzotcheva

Surveys conducted by the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce show that white-collar workers are slowly returning to downtown office buildings and that more are feeling comfortable with a pre-pandemic style of consumer activity.

When the pandemic hit in March 2020, many downtown offices emptied with employees pivoting to remote work. Many of those workers are still remote.

MMAC conducted a survey of its Board of Directors., which includes many of the largest companies in the region, and found that 41% still have half or all of their employees working remotely. Only 28% percent responded saying that zero to 25% of their employees were still remote.

Tim Sheehy, MMAC president, said more than 90,000 people work in downtown Milwaukee, and based upon their survey about a quarter of those workers are back in the office, during a media briefing on Monday.

A majority of major companies in Milwaukee — 61% — are expecting a “significant percent” of their workforces to return to the office before Labor Day, September 6th, and 39% expect to return after Labor Day.

But remote work isn’t going to disappear: 59% of companies are planning to offer hybrid or flexible work options that allow employees to work remotely for some or even most of the week, and 17% say they will offer permanent remote work.

Consumers Returning to Pre-Pandemic Activity

Another poll conducted by MMAC surveyed approximately a thousand people across the state on their level of comfort with activities like visiting family or going to a movie.

Respondents to the survey were nearly 100% confident with things like going to the grocery store or visiting family and friends in their homes.

Willingness to visit a barber for a haircut and going to work are both at 88%. Eating in a restaurant, shopping in-person, staying at a hotel and sending a child to school are all above 80%.

The activity with the lowest confidence is attending a stadium for a large sporting event, at 61%. But this is also the activity that has seen the highest growth in confidence in recent months, having risen from 33% of respondents willing to attend a large sporting event in February.

Air travel is another activity that has seen willingness among state residents grow by 28% between February and May, according to the MMAC survey.

Given the timing of these increases in consumer confidence, the increased COVID-19 vaccination rate appears to be the driving force behind Wisconsin residents returning to pre-pandemic activities.

Sheehy concurred, saying vaccination is going to continue to be a “critical part of both consumer confidence and employee safety.”

MMAC found that 47% of survey respondents supported employers requiring vaccination and 43% opposed it. 61% of respondents had been vaccinated and 37% had not been vaccinated — which is a vaccination rate significantly higher than for the state at large.

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Categories: Business, Economics, Health

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