By Katherine Schwartz
Head of Product
SpaceIQ

As companies begin to open their workplaces and welcome employees back, there’s a lot of uncertainty to overcome. The gradual return to work is a delicate situation that, if handled wrong, could leave employees resentful of their organization. The best thing employers can do is give their workers a voice and make their input a meaningful part of the reopening process. The simplest way to accomplish this is through a COVID-19 workplace survey.

Surveys are generally a useful tool in the workplace. Input from employees can shape changes, prevent disruptions, and improve morale. In the case of a coronavirus survey, it can quell fear and bolster confidence in the decision to reopen the workplace. Employers need to ask the right questions and be mindful of the answers they get.

Yes/No answers gauge general feel

Sometimes a cut-and-dry yes or no answer is all you need to make a meaningful decision. “Do you feel safe coming back to work?” is a powerful example. “Yes” shows that employees feel good about reentering the workplace; “no” signals that you have work to do.

Pepper your employee support survey with yes or no questions meant to give meaningful insight into how people feel. Some poignant yes-no questions to ask include:

  • Do you feel safe coming back to work?
  • Would you rather work from home given the opportunity?
  • Do you feel you are at a heightened risk to contract COVID-19?

Yes/No questions need to be simple and binary. The answer is either yes or no. Use these questions to gauge a general feel among employees, about issues that don’t need additional explanation or qualification.

Short answers give employees a voice

To properly survey employees, you need more than yes/no questions. Short answer questions serve an important role in gauging more complex responses that go beyond a one-word answer. Whether as standalone questions or as follow-ups to yes/no queries, you need to give employees a chance to qualify their answers.

Standalone short answer questions are the perfect opportunity to get feedback or to solicit suggestions from employees. Examples might include:

  • How can we improve the cleanliness of the work environment?
  • What tools or resources do you need to collaborate effectively while distancing?
  • What’s one change you’d like to see from the workplace post-COVID-19?

This is a chance for employees to speak freely. It’s a meaningful way to make their concerns, suggestions, or appreciation heard. For employers, it’s boots-on-the-ground research that provides firsthand insight into real workplace demands. Don’t fall into the trap of feeling obligated to make every change or take every suggestion under advisement. Evaluate responses and see what tracks across groups of employees before committing to any action.

A scale can quantify emotion

Sometimes, a number is a more powerful indicator of emotion or preference than an employee can put into words. It’s why any good employee survey needs to utilize scales. “On a scale of X to Y, how do you feel about Z?”

Scale questions aren’t just a convenient way to quantify certain variables—they’re the perfect way to contextualize data from larger dumps. This is particularly important for large corporations with hundreds of employees. Rather than sift through short answers to gauge sentiment, they can aggregate numerical responses and explore mean, median, and mode to get insights. Some examples of relevant questions include:

  • On a scale of 1-10, rate how comfortable you feel at work
  • On a scale of 1-5, indicate your preference for Zoom meetings vs. in-person meetings

Remember to contextualize each scale (best vs. worst, variable X vs. variable Y) and make the scale easy to understand (1-5, best to worst). Use scales when it applies to the intensity of a specific answer and, if necessary, ask short answer follow-ups to qualify employee answers.

Ask meaningful questions; get insightful answers

There is no shortage of employee survey templates out there and most businesses likely have one they can adapt to ask questions concerning the reopening of the workplace. Make sure your survey addresses specific questions pertaining to your workforce and the workplace. Companies welcoming back 100 workers need to ask different questions than those bringing back a handful.

What matters most is the style of the question. Do you need a general feel from the group on an initiative, or would specific, individualized feedback help you make better decisions? Structure your COVID-19 workplace survey to be simple, yet insightful. Then, follow it up with one-on-ones or policies that reflect employee feedback.

When employees feel heard, the uncertainty of the situation takes a back seat to the confidence they have in their employer.

Keep Reading: Workplace Coronavirus Resources

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