The Importance of Employee Surveys When Returning to Work

Employee Surveys are Key to Reintegrating Staff

As the UK begins to ease lockdown, many businesses are planning how to reopen their offices post Covid-19 – at least, in some capacity. Boris Johnson has announced that he aims to end the work from home guidance from 19th July 2021. This means employers should be planning for their staff’s safe return to work.

However, bringing employees back into the office isn’t necessarily as straightforward a process as it might initially seem to be. Team members may feel reluctant to come in after such an extended period at home and may be reticent in voicing any concerns regarding not just their physical health, but their mental wellbeing too. The government has made it clear it expects employers to consult with their staff and trade unions on the return to work.

Survey with 4 tickboxes with green penTo address this and how to best prepare and support team members for returning to the workplace, employee surveys are one of the most effective ways to gauge staff attitudes towards the future of the workplace, hybrid working, and a shift back to the office.

The Current Position on Returning to Work

Consulting with staff regarding working arrangements and making the workplace safe for return is important. Because employees may still be concerned about being in the workplace or travelling there.

In addition, the risks to people’s health are psychological as well as physical. Many may feel anxious about the risk of infection. While others may have gone through difficult domestic situations, like juggling childcare or caring for a vulnerable relative. Others still may be suffering from financial worries if there’s been redundancy in the household. Whilst some employees may have experienced illness and bereavement.

How Can Employee Surveys Help?

Employee engagement surveys are invaluable in gaining interesting insights. They provide staff with the opportunity to talk freely under the premise of employers looking to openly and genuinely seek the team’s opinions for moving forwards as a business in a post-Covid-19 world. The benefits of consulting with staff are numerous. Not only does it provide employers with important information, allowing them to make an informed decision on plans for returning to work. But it also creates a culture where staff feel their input is appreciated and respected.

Staff Surveys Can Be Useful in Determining:

  • How working from home for over a year has impacted team members.
  • Their view about any potential return to working from the office or resuming business travel.
  • Suggestions for how to make the workplace feel safe.
  • Personal preference for office working, hybrid working, or working from home.
HR manager talking to a businesswoman
Employee surveys can be helpful in determining many things

These surveys can be conducted by an HR team or external dedicated HR Consultants using targeted, open questions. These provide staff with the best opportunity to share full and frank views regarding their working lives during the pandemic. As well as their views and hopes for work/life once restrictions are lifted.

Example outcomes from the employee surveys may show:

  • How wellbeing has been impacted by working from home for over a year.
  • Specific concerns about pre-Covid ways of working, which will not meet new post- Covid social distancing guidelines and suggestions to make these safer.
  • Suggested adjustments for safer travel to and from the office.
  • Insight around certain things which have worked well online, and others which are
    more beneficial when conducted face to face.
  • Personal preferences for future working arrangements and a rationale for why office
    working, hybrid working, or working from home, is most beneficial for the employee
    and the business.

Employers will then be able to use the information to understand how they rank on the job satisfaction scale. And build plans in the knowledge that future changes will be incorporated with real employee input.

Other benefits of employee surveys are that they provide quick results, the questions can be tailored to specific situations, and the feedback can be completely anonymous. Also, they can help to open up a wider conversation.

How Has Covid-19 Changed The Way People Work?

The majority of office-based workers have been successfully working from home for over a year now. Many workforces will be keen to understand what this operational change might mean for the future, and the “new normal”.

Woman working from home with feet on table
Covid-19 has meant that employees have been working remotely and therefore their working pattern has changed

This is a significant time for employers to think creatively about new ways of working. Perhaps considering more flexible working hours and reducing time spent in the office. Despite a certain amount of ongoing uncertainty, the engagement, commitment, and involvement of the whole team is imperative for sustaining continued success for the business. This is why gaining insights through an employee satisfaction survey can be so very valuable, especially after the Covid-19 pandemic.

Finally…

As the Government intends to change the guidance on working from home in the future, every employer should now be considering planning and using this time to prepare their next steps.

When it comes to returning to work under lockdown easing, at the heart of any plans should be a commitment to support the physical and mental health of workers to ensure employers comply with their legal obligations too. This is where communication with staff is key. Staff satisfaction surveys can be an immensely useful tool in ensuring that the employer is successfully addressing any issues around returning to work. And making it a genuinely positive experience for staff.

Knowing they are valued and supported by their employer – and their health and safety is being prioritised – is vital for their wellbeing. And, as a result, will increase their productivity at work.

Employers should also be mindful of advice and restrictions that continue to be monitored and updated. They should ultimately plan a return to the workplace in a way that cares for their employees and safeguards their health and wellbeing.

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