Health biggest concern for NM workers
April 29, 2020
Business owners’ opinions on the COVID-19 pandemic and the shutdowns resulting from it have been fairly consistent — they’re losing their livelihoods and they’re not happy.
But what about the employees of businesses, essential and non-essential? How do those in the former category feel about risking their health, possibly their lives, by going to work? How do those in the latter category feel about staying at home, or in some cases, the money they’re losing? How do they feel about the prospect of returning to work?
Recently, the Curry County Chamber of Commerce contracted a survey of employees conducted by Andrea Corpening, the owner of Elite Business Performance LLC in Clovis since 2018 who has worked in employee and training development for 14 years. Corpening conducted the survey through Facebook and LinkedIn, asking respondents to specify what states they were in so she could determine New Mexico responses particularly.
“I had almost 420 respondents (nationwide),” Corpening said. “And 86 of them were from New Mexico. I will tell you that 35 respondents (from this state) are essential workers. … 27 percent (of the 86 New Mexicans) were working from home. … 20 percent (of the 86) were furloughed or unemployed as a result of COVID-19.”
The survey showed 47 percent of essential New Mexico workers stated that their health and the health of their family was their greatest concern. Their second-greatest concern, at 27 percent, was interacting with people with whom they came into contact.
Another key item in the survey was the Centers for Disease Control recommending that people wear masks and practice social distancing, with the question being, “How can these recommendations affect your ability to perform your job?”
“And 41 percent said that there would be no impact on their job and their ability to do their job,” Corpening said. “Fifty-nine percent said that it would affect them adversely.”
Of that 59 percent, 38 percent said it would be difficult but not impossible to do their job, 8 percent said it would be impossible, and 13 percent said they didn’t want to work under those conditions.
The survey showed 22 respondents wanted employers to take measures to limit their exposure to potentially sick people at essential companies. And 15 respondents wanted employers at those companies to be more supportive and understanding.
“There seems to be a trend of communication and compassion not coming through,” Corpening said.
Then there was the question posed to non-essential workers, asking them how they would feel “if restrictions were lifted next week and you were asked to work face-to-face with customers and co-workers.”
“Seventy-four percent said they would be nervous or afraid,” Corpening reported. “Fifteen percent said that they would be happy to go back to work. Five percent were indifferent, so neither happy nor nervous or afraid. Five percent said that they would quit.”
Breaking it down between men and women, 48 percent of women said the health of their family was their biggest concern. Seventeen percent said it was financial challenges and 14 percent said interacting with people.
Of men, 44 percent said their biggest concern was financial, 22 percent said interacting with people, and 11 percent said the health of their families.
Overall, for people working remotely and essential workers who could not do so, health was the biggest concern. Most furloughed and laid-off workers said it was financial challenges, as did self-employed people.
Among the more interesting comments Corpening received was from a respondent who interacts with over 100 people at an essential company: “I almost quit my job because I was scared to go to work ...” the comment read. “And I felt embarrassed and belittled in voicing my concerns.”
Another comment: “I work for a big box company. … Every day is like Black Friday. I also see and feel first-hand anxiety and stress because so many people are crowding the stores. We don’t feel safe. … We are scared. We can’t afford to take unpaid leave, but we don’t want to die! We need help.”
“There were a couple of people who said, ‘Oh, this is blown out of proportion,’” Corpening noted.
Corpening said she intends to do a follow-up survey about two weeks after New Mexico re-opens.