WEYBURN - Vaccines have enabled most of the province to regain a sense of normalcy after more than a year of living under restrictions instituted in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The challenges individuals faced in that time, including staying healthy, dealing with the consequences of social distancing and virtual schooling, may be subsiding. However various long-term challenges could affect businesses for years to come.
Businesses that were forced to close or limit their offerings during the pandemic may need to start rebuilding the trust and loyalty of their customers all over again. One factor that could make that a bigger challenge after the pandemic is how businesses that remained open handled restrictions.
There are still many hurdles to be faced by businesses. Recently, members of the Saskatchewan business community shared their input on topics such as proof of vaccines verification protocols, current safety protocols, and considerations if a fourth wave of COVID-19 were to trigger more restrictive measures.
According to an InputSask survey conducted by the Saskatchewan Chamber of Commerce, there is an even split of opinions among the business community. In the survey, 43 per cent of respondents expressed that proof of vaccines through a mechanism such as a certificate or a passport should be mandatory. However, an almost equal number of respondents, 41 per cent, expressed that proof of vaccination should not be required to enter businesses or public places.
Another challenge facing many businesses right now is the competition for talented employees. Workers who worked remotely during the pandemic may be reluctant to leave their jobs if they are allowed to continue working remotely as economies reopen. This means fewer qualified candidates for open positions, especially if those positions do not offer the remote work option. In addition, firms based in large cities may not have as many applicants for their openings in the immediate aftermath of the pandemic.
Cities where maintaining distance from others was difficult were viewed as riskier than less populous areas. It might be some time before people who left cities or planned to move to cities prior to the pandemic are comfortable living in such crowded places again. That could make it more challenging for city-based businesses to attract qualified job applicants.
Another factor to consider is that soon staff and students will return to school, and the Saskatchewan Medical Association is currently advising for continued masking mandates and public health measures to be practices in all school divisions. These recommendations will have an impact on communities across the province.
With the recent news that COVID-19 case numbers are still rising, there will have to be continued preventive measures in place for most businesses.