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Business Indicators, Business Impacts of COVID-19

This publication provides information on the incidence and nature of impacts due to COVID-19, as experienced by businesses operating in Australia.

Reference period
September 2020
Released
24/09/2020

Key statistics

  • Almost one third of businesses expect modifications put in place to manage the impacts of COVID-19 will be kept long-term
  • Two in five employing businesses currently have staff teleworking
  • One in three employing businesses expect staff hours to increase when conditions stabilise

Business Impacts of COVID-19 Survey

Topics covered in this release include:

  • Modifications to business operations
  • Teleworking and expected changes to working hours
  • Business revenue, operating expenses and employment

The collection was conducted through a telephone survey between 10 September and 16 September 2020. The sample size was 2,000 businesses and the final response rate was 64% (1,279 responding businesses).

This release forms part of the suite of additional products that the ABS is producing to measure the impact of COVID-19. Future information collected in this survey will evolve to maintain relevance in a changing environment.

Modifications to business operations

Businesses reported whether they were operating under modified conditions as a result of COVID-19. They also provided information on some of the types of modifications made, and whether these were expected to be retained long term (i.e. for more than 6 months). 

Data on modifications to business operations and the types of modifications made was also previously collected in June 2020

Almost two-thirds (64%) of all businesses reported that they were operating under modified conditions due to COVID-19 in September 2020. This compares to almost three-quarters (73%) of all businesses that were operating under modified conditions in June 2020.

By employment size, the proportion of all businesses that were operating under modified conditions in September 2020 were:

  • 64% of small businesses (i.e. 0-19 persons employed)
  • 73% of medium businesses (i.e. 20-199 persons employed)
  • 78% of large businesses (i.e. 200 or more persons employed)

Businesses in Arts and recreation services were the most likely to be operating under modified conditions (86%) compared with businesses in Electricity, gas, water and waste services (45%) which were the least likely.

Types of modifications made

In September, the most common types of modifications that businesses currently have in place were changes to the way products or services are provided to customers (36%), and changes to staff roles or duties (26%). This compares to 40% and 25% in June.

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(a) Proportions are of all businesses

(b) Data is from Business Indicators, Business Impacts of COVID-19, June 2020

(c) Businesses were asked whether the modifications were expected to remain in place long-term

Almost a third (31%) of all businesses reported they expect at least one modification would remain in place long-term.

More than half of businesses in Health care and social assistance (60%) and Accommodation and food services (50%) reported they expect at least one modification would remain in place long-term.

Types of modifications expected to remain long-term, by top reporting industries (a)(b)
Type of modificationTop reporting industries
Changed the types and range of products and services offered by the business26% Accommodation and food services
19% Health care and social assistance
17% Other services
Changed the way products or services are provided to customers37% Health care and social assistance
36% Accommodation and food services
31% Education and training
Changed operating hours including opening by appointment only25% Accommodation and food services
21% Information media and telecommunications
17% Arts and recreation services
Changed suppliers or supply chain13% Wholesale trade
11% Health care and social assistance
11% Accommodation and food services
Changed staff roles or duties26% Accommodation and food services
26% Wholesale trade
19% Health care and social assistance
(a) Proportions are of all businesses
(b) Businesses could provide more than one response to the question
 

Teleworking and expected changes to working hours

Businesses with employees teleworking

Employing businesses provided an estimate of the proportion of their workforce teleworking:

  • prior to COVID-19; 
  • during September; and
  • expected once restrictions are lifted and conditions stabilise. 

More than two in five employing businesses (43%) reported that they had staff currently teleworking. This compares to 28% of employing businesses that reported they had employees teleworking prior to COVID-19.

Three in ten employing businesses (29%) expect staff to continue to telework once restrictions are lifted and conditions stabilise. 

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(a) Proportions are of employing businesses

(b) The sum of the component items may not equal 100% due to rounding

(c) Businesses were asked to report their expectations once restrictions are lifted and conditions stabilise

Large businesses were almost twice as likely as small businesses to currently have any employees teleworking (80% compared to 42%). They were also more likely to currently have 50% or more of their workforce teleworking (31% of large businesses compared with 21% of small businesses).

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(a) Proportions are of employing businesses

Once COVID-19 restrictions are lifted and conditions stabilise, employing businesses from the following three industries are most likely to report they expect some of their employees to be teleworking:

  • Information, media and telecommunications (65%);
  • Professional, scientific and technical services (61%); and
  • Financial and insurance services (42%).
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(a) Proportions are of employing businesses

(b) Businesses were asked to report their expectations once restrictions are lifted and conditions stabilise

Expected future changes to staff hours

Businesses reported expected changes to the number of hours worked by staff once COVID-19 restrictions are lifted and conditions stabilise. 

Three in five employing businesses (60%) reported no expected change in the number of hours worked by staff once COVID-19 restrictions are lifted and conditions stabilise. Over a third (34%) expect the number of hours worked by staff to increase.

Employing businesses in Accommodation and food services (58%), Retail trade (44%) and Arts and recreation services (44%) were most likely to report they expect the number of hours worked by staff to increase once COVID-19 restrictions are lifted and conditions stabilise.

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Business revenue, operating expenses and employment

Businesses reported on changes in revenue, operating expenses and number of employees over the last month and expected changes over the next month. Businesses were asked to provide a best estimate only, without accessing records or reports.

This information was also collected in the July and August surveys. The following graphs show data reported in the July, August and September surveys.

Fewer businesses reported a decrease in revenue in September (38%), compared to August (41%) and July (47%). Three-quarters of businesses (75%) expected their revenue to stay the same or increase in October.

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(a) Proportions are of all businesses

(b) Changes over the last month, as reported by businesses in the indicated month of collection

(c) Expected changes over the next month, as reported by businesses in September

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(a) Proportions are of all businesses

(b) Changes over the last month, as reported by businesses in the indicated month of collection

(c) Expected changes over the next month, as reported by businesses in September

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(a) Proportions are of all businesses

(b) Changes over the last month, as reported by businesses in the indicated month of collection

(c) Expected changes over the next month, as reported by businesses in September

Business impacts of COVID-19 visual summary

Business Impacts of COVID-19

The following section describes the visual summary presented above.

Business Impacts of COVID-19 Survey results, September 2020 include modifications to business operations; teleworking and expected changes to working hours and business revenue, operating expenses and employment.

  • 64% of businesses are operating with modifications due to COVID-19.
  • 31% of businesses expect to keep modifications in place long-term.
  • Most common modifications to be kept long-term are: Changes to the way products or services are provided (20%); Changes in staff roles or duties (15%); Changes to types and range of products and services offered (11%).
  • 28% of employing businesses had staff teleworking before COVID-19, compared with 43% of employing businesses that have staff teleworking currently.
  • Large businesses are twice as likely to have staff teleworking compared to small businesses (80% compared to 42%).
  • Once restrictions are lifted and conditions stabilise, 29% of employing businesses expected staff to continue teleworking and 34% expect staff hours to increase. 
  • Industries most likely to increase staff hours: Accommodation and food services (58%); Retail trade (44%); Arts and recreation services (44%).

 

Detailed data on the impacts of COVID-19 can be found at https://www.abs.gov.au/covid-19

Data downloads

Business Impacts of COVID-19

Previous catalogue number

This release previously used catalogue number 5676.0.55.003