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Cautious optimism about COVID-19 in NZ – HRNZ Survey Results

HRNZ Members were surveyed between 29 July and 3 August regarding their organisation's current planning in relation to COVID-19.  We were keen to understand the assumptions New Zealand employers were making about the likelihood of any future community transmission of COVID-19.  The survey was conducted during a time when COVID-19 continued to spread exponentially globally, a second wave of community transmission in Victoria and NSW was increasing and New Zealand passed 90 days with no community transmission.

Respondents were asked to describe in one word the general sentiment of their employees towards COVID-19.  There was a large range of responses to this question, but the overall sense was that people were cautiously optimistic about the situation in New Zealand. 

Cautious optimism is a good summary of our overall responses in this survey.  Over 70% of our respondents report either a full or partial return to BAU (business as usual) with half of those saying they were operating on the assumption that New Zealand would not see further community transmission of COVID-19.  Given the experiences from overseas in recent weeks this is a massive vote of confidence in New Zealand’s COVID-19 response to date.

Most respondents report that whilst their organisations are returning to a BAU state they have plans in place to respond should a move back to Alert Level 3 or 4 be required. 

Only 18% of our respondents reported that their organisations are strictly enforcing contact tracing amongst employees, customers and visitors.  This is approximately the same number that said contact tracing was not a requirement in their organisation.

Most organisations represented in our survey appear to have procedures in place but no strict enforcement.  A key sentiment seemed to be that contact tracing could be ramped up or activated if needed.  HRNZ notes that contact tracing is part of the Alert Level One guidelines and a key mitigant against future widespread community transmission.

In terms of organisational priorities for our respondents there was a reasonably equal split between reducing costs, returning to BAU, finding new business opportunities and implementing long term changes to their business model.

A very fortunate 10% of our respondents are focused on dealing with an increased demand for services.  The heartening aspect of this result is that finding new business opportunities was ahead by a nose in terms of current business priorities.  Another example of the optimism being reflecting by our survey respondents.

There has been some economic commentary about the potential for a second wave of job losses when the government wage subsidy ends.  This risk was not reflected in our survey with less than 10% of respondents saying that reducing staff costs was on the agenda when the subsidy ends.  That contrasts with the 20% of respondents who say the wage subsidy has assisted and they do not anticipate staff cuts.  Nearly 50% of our respondents did not claim the wage subsidy at all and some that did have subsequently repaid this.

Overall, the survey response was positive and reflected a level of confidence that New Zealand would not experience a large scale second wave of COVID-19.


HRNZ encourages members to do their part in ensuring Alert Level One guidelines are followed. 

  1. If you’re sick, stay home. Don’t go to work or school. Don’t socialise.
  2. If you have cold or flu symptoms call your doctor or Healthline and make sure you get tested.
  3. Wash your hands. Wash your hands. Wash your hands.
  4. Sneeze and cough into your elbow, and regularly disinfect shared surfaces.
  5. If you are told by health authorities to self-isolate you must do so immediately.
  6. If you’re concerned about your wellbeing, or have underlying health conditions, work with your GP to understand how best to stay healthy.
  7. Keep track of where you’ve been and who you’ve seen to help contact tracing if needed. Use the NZ COVID Tracer app as a handy way of doing this.
  8. Businesses should help people keep track of their movements by displaying the Ministry of Health QR Code for contact tracing.
  9. Stay vigilant. There is still a global pandemic going on. People and businesses should be prepared to act fast to step up Alert Levels if we have to.
  10. People will have had different experiences over the last couple of months. Whatever you’re feeling — it’s okay. Be kind to others. Be kind to yourself.