Reopening the Workplace: The value of employee surveys

Employee surveys in return to workplace planning

Adjusting to a new normal as the Coronavirus pandemic plays out requires employers to put the needs of their staff at the forefront of planning, listen to employee feedback and understand how their workforce are feeling. In these challenging times, it is really important for businesses to take a people-first, inclusive approach to change as we plan for a gradual return to the workplace.

As any leader will know, it’s not as easy as simply bringing people straight back to work. There are a lot of factors you need to take into consideration such as people’s childcare and care-giving responsibilities, how they travel into work, their living status etc, then let your employees influence decisions.

Employees want to give their feedback on Coronavirus and the work environment, and share their opinions now more than ever. This is because of how much it resonates with them and the long-term impact it is inevitably going to have on us all.

Furthermore, in the government guidance setting out expectations on the steps that should be taken to help businesses reopen safely, it references a need for employers to consult with their employees about returns to the workplace.

Conducting anonymous surveys with employees helps you get the best feel for what your employees are thinking about returning to the workplace. Are they eager to get back? Are they anxious? Why are they anxious? What steps or procedures would help with any discomfort about coming back? Surveys can help with this whilst also making employees feel they have a voice in the process.

We have recently supported a number of our clients to successfully carry out employee surveys to gain insight and feedback on how their employees are managing working from home, along with staff who are still required to carry out their duties on site. We would recommend being inclusive of all staff to ensure a consistent approach and valuable feedback. The anonymity of surveys allows staff to be more candid with their responses and enables the employer to gain an accurate insight into how staff are coping.

Benefits of an employee survey

Improves communication

Communication includes listening and employee surveys are a great step to opening the lines of communication in an organisation. Since everyone has a chance to reply, employees can share both positive and negative feedback. All in all, it is better to be aware of what employees think and need, rather than assume. If you don’t ask, you will never know.

Opportunity for follow-up and discussion

We always encourage clients not to make assumptions and ask staff for their feedback and opinions. Surveys provide a great opportunity to do this and give the management team an opportunity to create follow-up meetings and dialogues. It also serves as a follow-up action item to take next steps with the findings. These follow-ups allow management to dig a little deeper into the survey responses.

Shows your employees you care

The simple act of reaching out and listening carries a lot of weight. It’s a proactive and empathetic approach demonstrating to your staff that you care as opposed to reacting to employee issues as they arise. Showing compassion about the personal challenges and emotions people are facing will have a positive impact on the whole team.

Helps gain understanding of key improvement areas

This benefit identifies key areas and factors which are important to employees but also the ones they are less than satisfied with. These become priority action items for your management team, enabling them to manage future transition and change more effectively. It ensures that you focus your time on the items that matter most to your employees and ensure that these are delivered effectively.

As a direct result of the insight employee surveys can provide, you are able to respond to your employees needs as required, for example by introducing new policies and initiatives, increasing dependants’ leave, providing a home-working equipment allowance for all staff, implementing extra safety measures on-site and improving access to wellbeing initiatives and mental health support. It allows proactive leaders to personally address their team’s anxieties and fears about returning to the workplace by taking action and giving them the tools and guidance to support them through the transition.

Final thoughts

Safely reopening workplaces requires leadership that puts employee concerns front and centre: thinking inclusively and not top down. Facing numerous first-time challenges due to the pandemic, leaders must demonstrate a commitment to a culture of safety, inclusion and wellbeing as they implement their organisation’s reopening plans.

There are no easy answers to the challenges businesses are currently facing. To effectively navigate change, leaders need information and insight from their entire workforce. Only by collecting employee feedback will organisations understand how to manage this change.

Giving your employees a voice is so beneficial for employee engagement, loyalty and performance – all factors which are key to success whatever the future of work will hold.

Purpose HR are passionate about creating and supporting inclusive workplace cultures for our clients. Please get in touch with our experienced team if you would like any additional advice or support for your business on creating and conducting a tailored employee survey and planning for a safe return to the workplace.