Public Sentiment Toward Resuming Pre-COVID-19 Activities Seeing a “Tremendous Shift”

Rich Thau, co-founder and president of Engagious, participated in a video interview in conjunction with Nareit’s REITweek: Virtual Investor Conference.

Engagious has been publishing its biweekly tracking survey, the Back-to-Normal Barometer, since the start of April. During that time there has been a “tremendous shift,” Thau said. In late March and early April, only about 35-40% of Americans were ready to go back to activities like staying in a hotel, getting on a plane or taking a trip of more than 500 miles. “We’re now seeing roughly half of the population willing to do those things,” he said.

Thau said the desire to re-engage has been seen “step-by-step” across a range of activities.

At the same time, Thau said a “very clear divide” exists between those people who are eager to resume activities and those who need more assurances. Those eager to resume skew middle-aged male and are either very liberal or very conservative, he noted. Those who are hesitant skew older and female and tend to be Democrats.

“There is a sizeable minority of people who will not reengage—particularly if they are older, particularly if they are female—until either there’s a vaccine or treatment for COVID-19. But from an economic perspective, they are the minority and most people will be willing to reengage,” Thau said.

Turning to workplace issues, Thau said that 45% of respondents in the latest bi-weekly survey said they would like to continue to work from home at their current level. That sentiment is especially prevalent among those 55 and older.

Other workplace issues employers are likely to face include possible friction if workers with private offices are allowed to remove their masks, while those working in common areas cannot. About one-third of respondents in the latest survey agreed with the idea this situation could be considered discrimination, Thau said.

Thau noted that there will be a lot of unanswered cultural questions, and anxiety, in connection to the return to the workplace.