Study: SARS Still Exacting Big Business Toll

May 19, 2003 ( - Not surprisingly, the SARS epidemic remains a deep concern for 20% of companies affected globally and seven out of 10 in Asia, according to a survey.

Mercer Human Resource Consulting said SARS ranks higher than corporate scandals and job security on the business agenda. Normal business is still “significantly disrupted” at the 260 affected companies. Over 42% of organizations encourage staff to work at home while 51% provide them with masks.

Eight of 10 cut back on employee travel and 62% have stopped holding regular business meetings for fear of spreading the illness. Nearly half take the precaution of screening staff and visitors and a similar number (43%) make quarantine compulsory for those staff with, or at risk of contracting the illness.

According to the survey, companies also have:

  • enforced leave
  • carried out medical checks
  • canceled social events
  • implemented contingency plans
  • stepped up office cleaning.

Despite the current worldwide scare, the majority of respondents were optimistic that SARS will end soon. More than two-thirds (67%) believe that it won’t be an issue three months from now while one in five think SARS will be around longer than that. In the long-term, only a minority (7%) feels that SARS will have had a serious effect on business. Most (80%) say it will have no or little impact going forward and some (4%) even feel it will have a positive influence on operations.

Mercer said the companies affected are predominantly in Hong Kong, China, Singapore,Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. The data were collected April 28 through May 13, 2003.