— More than half of employers responding to a recent Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce survey say they reduced staff last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

WMC, the state’s largest business group, surveyed 266 member employers and found that 34 percent of respondents reduced their workforces by less than 10 percent. Thirteen percent reduced staff by between 10 and 20 percent, and 5 percent cut staff by more than 20 percent.

Among employers that allowed all or some of their employees to work from home, 44 percent said productivity levels remained the same. Thirty-two percent said productivity fell, while 8 percent said productivity increased while staff worked from home. Another 17 percent said they were unsure.

Only 5 percent of respondents said they will let their employees work from home permanently, and 74 percent said employees have already returned to working in the office. Around 20 percent said employees will be returning to in-office work between the coming month and the fourth quarter of 2021. One percent said workers will be back in the office next year.

“Wisconsin employers are ready to get back to work,” said WMC President and CEO Kurt Bauer in a release. “While offices will likely look different moving forward, this survey shows most of us are just ready to get back to normal.”

When asked about concerns related to staff working remotely, the most common concern was a loss of company culture, with 33 percent of respondents. Twenty-two percent said they would be concerned about decreased collaboration, and 15 percent would be concerned with a lack of communication. Thirteen percent said decreased productivity would be a concern, while 9 percent said they’re not concerned about remote work.

The survey also reveals 82 percent of respondents aren’t offering incentives for staff to get vaccinated against COVID-19, while 18 percent are offering incentives such as paid time off, gift cards and cash bonuses.

Sixty-four percent of respondents said the pandemic had a negative financial impact on their business, while 30 percent said it had a positive impact. Seven percent said their business wasn’t impacted.

See the full survey results: https://www.wmc.org/wp-content/uploads/WI-Employer-Survey-2021_COVID-19.pdf