Return to Work Surveys: Mind the Gap

Thanks to the hard work of scientists, we’ve got vaccines against the coronavirus, and thanks to our dedicated healthcare workers and government leaders, they’re actually getting into the arms of fellow citizens. So now that we’re getting vaccinated, when do we head back to the office?

Not so fast.

According to a recent survey by BCG and Appcast, working on-site five days a week isn’t what most U.S. employees are looking for. Pre-pandemic, two-thirds (64%) of U.S. employees worked fully on-site, but in the wake of the pandemic, the survey finds that just 14% of U.S. employees prefer to work fully on-site going forward. That’s quite a gap! Another 50% prefer a flexible working arrangement, and the final 35% prefer working fully remote.

What’s On The Minds Of Your Employees?

If you’re not able to actually ask them in person, you can send out a short survey to get insight into their thoughts. A quick Google search will return scores of “return to work” surveys that you can use as-is or which you can tailor to your specific needs.

But before hitting “send,” take a few minutes to think through what themes you’re going to ask about, and also to review some of the best practices for fielding surveys.

Return to Work Survey Themes

A few themes are common among many of the surveys you’ll find, as well as the articles talking about returning to work.

  • Responsibilities to care for others: Your employees may have to take care of others in their family, such as parents, siblings, or children. If this is the case, then their availability is going to be dependent on whether, for example, their childrens’ schools are in-person, remote, or a mix of both.
  • Restrictions due to health concerns: Over the past year the employee themself may have contracted coronavirus, or they may be caring for someone who has. While around others, your employees may need to take extra precautions to minimize the risk of transmission.
  • Safety protocols implemented in the workplace: Employees are going to want to remain healthy and safe while in the workplace, but exactly what that means may differ from person to person. Some might think that wearing face masks, having one-way directional signs, and limits on meeting room capacity are over the top; others might see them as table stakes for a safe return.

Not sure how to start looking at your data? Check out my blog post that walks you through how to get started, or download my Data Jumpstart Guide for my 5-Step process.


Return to Work Survey Best Practices

In order to get a good response rate on your survey, consider a few best practices for creating and administering surveys.

  • Follow The Golden Rule: Although you may have a long list of questions you’d like answers to, think about what you’ll do once you have those answers. If you’re not going to be able to act on the information, then don’t ask about it. By soliciting someone’s opinion, you’re sending the message that things could possibly change. If there’s no chance of that happening, don’t get their hopes up.
  • Confidentiality vs. Anonymity: Good practice is to tell your respondents up front whether their information and their identity will be held confidential or will be anonymous. Generally a respondent will be more likely to give candid answers the less likely it is that they’ll be able to be identified.
    • “Confidential” means that their identity will be stored somehow but won’t be reported out in the results.
    • “Anonymous” means that their identity won’t be able to be linked to their responses.
  • Survey Fatigue: This is a real thing! You have a lot of questions you want to ask, but remember that it takes brainpower to give answers. If the survey goes on and on and on, it’s likely the respondent will get tired of answering or will get drawn into another task and just stop.
    • Make sure to front-load important topics and questions, as much as feasible, so that if your respondents do end up getting tired or bored or pulled away, you’ll at least have answers to some of the more important questions.

Connect With Me

Are you thinking of sending out your own survey, but not sure where to start? Book a free 30-minute discussion using the scheduling form below, and we can get to work on it. I look forward to connecting!

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