Getting the Most from a Return to Work Survey

There has been significant disruption in the employment landscape over the past few years. The COVID-19 pandemic spurred the necessity for businesses to shift to remote operations. Many companies have chosen to stick with work-from-home protocols due to the potential for lower overheads and providing workers with a flexibility that can help their productivity. Nevertheless, yours may be among the increasing number of businesses keen to bring workers back into the office in the near future.

This has certainly been a point of contention between some workers and their employers. It’s vital that your company doesn’t simply pull the plug on remote work. Issuing a return to office pulse survey first can be an invaluable tool in ensuring your company and your workers have the most positive transition.

So, let’s take a closer look at how you can get the most from a return to work survey.

Why Perform a Survey?

Things have changed over the course of the pandemic. The way your employees interact with the workplace, your customers, and the world in general is likely to have altered or been disrupted by the need to operate from a distance. As such, the way they view the physical office environment could present challenges in a variety of areas.

These include: 

  • Health and Safety

The most obvious consideration here is that your workers may have health and safety concerns. Understandably, they may be hesitant to be in the same physical space as their team, clients, and visiting vendors. This may be especially concerning where there are inconsistencies between what they and those they’ll be sharing space with consider to be appropriate sanitation practices. At home, your workers have had full control over this, while the office represents returning that control to the company.

  • Social Anxiety

Over the last couple of years, your workers may have only been collaborating in remote spaces. This could lead to them feeling a certain amount of discomfort around large groups of people.  They might also find the prospect of close interactions on a full-time basis overwhelming.

  • Remote Preference

One of the common ways in which you could see some pushback is the simple preference for remote operations. Your employees may have found that working from home without a lot of the baggage of the traditional workplace empowers them to be more productive. Not to mention that the flexibility provides a better work-life balance.

  • The Great Resignation

The Great Resignation is set to continue, with the ability to choose when or where they work being among the top considerations in employees’ decision-making. This is often tied up with the quality of life that workers are seeking. A swift insistence on shifting back to mandatory in-office operations may cause conflict and influence your employees’ propensity to look for alternative employment.

As you can see, the issue of returning to work is anything but straightforward on a practical and emotional level for your workers. A combination of any of the above elements — and others — has the potential to impact how your employees feel about operating within the confines of the office environment. When left unaddressed, these can affect your workers’ tendency to engage with their tasks and the company itself. 

However, you can’t know what the specific issues are for your workforce and how you should be handling them unless you reach out and gain your workers’ insights. Your best tool for gaining actionable data is issuing a return to work survey prior to your intended return to office date, so you can better understand your employees’ readiness for the environment.

What Elements Should Your Survey Measure?

It can be difficult to know what metrics your survey should measure. Without a solid idea of these, it’s challenging to create sets of questions or direct your analysis in an actionable way. The Workify Return to Office 2.0 Pulse Survey focuses on 3 key areas. Our research has determined that these are the most relevant aspects that give you insights you can drill deeper into.

These measurable elements are:

Employee Readiness

The first aspect it’s important to measure is your employees’ general readiness to return to the workplace. This isn’t just about whether they’re technically and emotionally prepared for the office environment. Rather, it also revolves around their perceptions of your workplace being ready for them to return to. As such, Workify’s return to work surveys look at aspects such as employees’ confidence and trust in the company to make safe decisions, the current state of health and safety guidance compliance, and the preferred timeline of return.

Motivations for Returning

When there aren’t solid reasons for a return to the office, this can seem to workers as though the company is arbitrarily dictating. It’s important to gauge your employees’ perspectives on the necessity to return to the office and how their productivity and goals may be affected by it. Alongside analyzing the demands of their job in relation to the working environment, Workify’s Return to Office 2.0 Survey also focuses on any independent motivations to come back to the office each employee may have.

Barriers to Returning

We’ve already covered some of the potential barriers to returning that are common at the moment. However, there can be various others and each employee is likely to have their own combination of factors. You not only need to understand what barriers are present for your workforce but also the extent these are problematic and the best tools to overcome them. As such, Workify’s return to work surveys focus on measuring aspects such as employees’ concerns and expectations, points of specific resistance to returning, and the transition time needed.

What Types of Questions Should You Ask?

Having established what you need to measure, it’s important to understand what types of questions you need to ask to gain the most useful insights. Workify’s research has found that  our pulse surveys benefit from single choice questions, well specified open-ended questions, and clearly defined Likert questions. The latter refers to questions in which employees are asked to what extent they agree or disagree with a statement.

Some examples of effective questions in each area of measurement include:

Employee Readiness

1. In order to transition effectively, I can see myself returning to the office with: (Single Choice)

  • 0 – 2 weeks notice
  • 2 – 4 weeks notice
  • 4 – 6 weeks notice,
  • 6 – 8 weeks notice
  • I would prefer to not return to the office

2. I feel confident [COMPANY] will consider my personal health and safety when determining when we return to the office. (Likert)

Motivations for Returning

1. I need to return to the office to meet upcoming goals/targets. (Likert)

2. What is the main reason you would want to return to the office, when we are able to. (Open-ended)

Barriers to Returning

1. The ideal arrangement for me would be working in office : (Single Choice)

  • 0 days
  • 1-2 days
  • 2-3 days
  • 3-4 days
  • Everyday

2. What is your biggest concern in returning to the office when it’s safe to do so? (open-ended)

How Do You Know Your Workers Are Ready to Return?

Once you’ve completed the return to work pulse survey, how do you know your workers are ready to return to the office? Well, your first step is to perform an analysis of the responses. Workify’s Return to Office 2.0 Pulse Surveys are part of an all-in-one platform that includes access to advanced analytics. This means you can review areas of correlation and consistency at a glance. Nevertheless, surveys aren’t the solution in themselves, but rather an agile tool that gives you key insights and allows you to drill deeper into your employees’ specific challenges.

With this data at your disposal you can start to find the most appropriate solutions for your business and your workers. This may include adapting your in-office protocols to address the safety, collaborative, or practical barriers your workforce has indicated. It might involve working with your employees to establish a step-by-step timeline over which to execute your return, with points of assessment along the way. The results of your survey could also indicate that a hybrid solution may be the most effective compromise for everyone involved. The point is to use the data as a starting point and keep your workforce a part of the changes moving forward.

Wrapping Up

Coming back to the office could be challenging for your workforce. As such, it is essential to gain an understanding of your employees perspectives on the matter. Without clear and actionable data, your company could be progressing with a return process that could lead to employee disengagement. Utilizing return to work surveys in this area can ensure you gain insights you need to collaboratively develop appropriate solutions.

If you’d like to learn more about how you can adopt Workify Return to Office 2.0 Pulse Surveys, you can download our PDF or book a free 30 minute employee engagement consultation.