The Re-entry Chronicles, Part 2: Truly tune into employees

re-entry employee survey

Like so many enterprise-wide initiatives, re-entry is hugely dependent on employee buy-in. If they don’t feel safe, they may not comply. 

Beyond compliance, there is much value in knowing how employees have fared during these many weeks of working from home. Understanding what your employees need and want will help you to calibrate your re-entry plans, from how you support WFH (work from home) to how you tackle de-densification.

Questions you might ask

While some companies have been diligently taking the pulse of their people, we are hearing from many organizations that are yet to do so. Below are some sample questions you can use to elicit employee perceptions, needs and intentions. 

Employee Survey Sample
How satisfied are you with working from home?
[Very] [Somewhat] [Neutral] [Not much] [Not at all]
What factors negatively affect your productivity while working from home? (choose any that apply)
[Distractions] [Noise] [Loneliness] [Lack of motivation] [Slow/intermittent Internet] [Inability to focus] [Online meetings] [Separating work and home life] [Other]
What factors positively affect your productivity while working from home? (choose any that apply)
[Lack of commute] [Ability to focus] [Online meetings] [Controlling my schedule]
Where in your home do you mostly work?
[Dedicated office] [Spare room] [Kitchen or dining room table] [Living room] [Patio/porch/deck] [I move around] [Other]
How has working from home affected your physical health?
[Positively] [Negatively] [Neutral]
How safe do you feel in the scenarios below? (Rate each item on a scale of 1-5, with 1 being the riskiest and 5 being the safest)
Working from home

Working at the office

Taking public transportation

Commuting in my car

Commuting in a carpool

Commuting on foot or by bike

Working at a flexible office space (e.g., Wework, Regus)
How effective have you been at working remotely?
[Very] [Somewhat] [Neutral] [Not very] [Not at all] [Unable to answer]
How effective has your team been at working remotely?
[Very] [Somewhat] [Neutral] [Not very] [Not at all] [Unable to answer]
How effective have your group or team leaders been at managing the team remotely?
[Very] [Somewhat] [Neutral] [Not very] [Not at all] [Unable to answer]
When do you feel most productive?
[9-5] [Morning] [Afternoon] [Evening] [Nighttime] [Wee hours] [Whenever I feel inspired]
What tools or work aids have helped you the most as you work from home? (choose any that apply)
Ergonomic chair

Large or double monitor

Standing desk

Treadmill desk

High speed Internet

Headset microphone

Noise canceling headphones

Other _______
What’s one thing we could get for you to make your work easier or better?
What future work arrangement would you prefer:
[To return to the office full time] [To work from home full time] [To work at a flexible office space near my home] [A combination of all the above]
What feelings, if any, do you have about returning to the office?
[None] [Caution] [Enthusiasm] [Fear]
What situations might affect your decisions in the next six months? (choose any that apply)
I am medically vulnerable

I, or members of my household were possibly infected with COVID-19

I, or members of my household, tested positive for COVID-19

I have pre-school children] [I have school-aged children

I have medically vulnerable family members

[I am a caretaker

Other _________

Candor vs. caution

One consideration is whether your employee survey should be anonymous or allow you to identify individual employees. 

  • Identifiable – if you can tie responses to specific employees, then you may be able to spot individual issues that managers can address.
  • Anonymous – this is more likely to provide you with honest feedback, particularly on leadership and team performance. 
  • Hybrid – you might consider anonymous polls of employees within identifiable divisions, work groups, metro areas or work sites. That way you can gather more honest feedback but also gain intelligence that will guide re-entry as it pertains to specific business units or meaningfully distinct geographies.  

Evaluating responses

As you gather employee responses, here are some response patterns to keep an eye on:

  • Employees who indicate a strong desire or need to return to the office. Another way to look at the workforce is not just which teams, but which individuals, have an urgent need to return to HQ. Chances are, on every team there will be successful home workers and then people who desperately need to return to the office. What if you were to prioritize unsuccessful home workers for re-entry?
  • Tools and support that WFH employees need. If, say, 20% of your workforce remains at home, what will they need to stay productive and healthy? Ergonomic chairs? Headsets? Better Internet? On-demand access to nearby flexible offices?
  • Potential for noncompliance – If you are surprised by employees’ intentions to return to the office or stay away, you can adjust your plans and communications accordingly. You may also be able to identify the factors that are affecting employees’ responses.
  • Leadership needs – Are team leaders equipped to manage distributed teams? Your survey might indicate where there is room for improvement in remote-management styles.

Incorporate continuous employee feedback

Collecting and analyzing metrics is an important part of tracking re-entry progress. But equally important is tracking employee sentiment and comparing that against statistical metrics. 

Consider sending out employee evaluations every 4 to 6 weeks to understand if sentiments have changed or if new issues have emerged. Unlike an initial survey, which might be exhaustive, these evaluations can be short and sweet, which increases the likelihood of participation.

Topics: COVID-19, flexible office, Remote Work, Coronavirus, Re-entry, people operations, hr, Employee Survey, WFA Management

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