The lockdown is slowly drawing to a close. With each government briefing, more rules are relaxed.

For some employees, a return to the workplace can’t come soon enough. But others are anxious about leaving the safety of home working. It will be a huge challenge for employers to manage the wellbeing and concerns of returning employees.

Here, Andrew Heath, CEO of We Thrive, an employee engagement software company, with behavioural psychology at the heart of its survey development, talks more about why and how businesses should survey their staff as they return to work in these unprecedented circumstances.

Why people feel anxious about returning to work

A recent poll of 1,000 working adults, conducted by YouGov for the CIPD, found that 44 per cent reported feeling anxious about the prospect of going back to work because of the health risks posed by Covid-19.

Anxiety about returning to work isn’t just going to be about fear of infection. There are complex reasons behind anxiety and a return to work.

Many people will have become used to lockdown and be leading less hectic lives than before. Going back to the pressures of modern life pre-Covid may not be something everyone is looking forward to.

The emotional impact of this pandemic on the workforce is not to be underestimated. And economic predictions of a potentially deep recession will also be playing on many people’s minds.

Everyone will have a different set of needs. Given the unprecedented situation, an employee survey is a vital tool. So, using a survey, how do employers capture the information they need and how can vastly differing needs be met to ensure businesses get back on track?

What we dont know – assessing readiness for a return to work

There is little point in getting employees back to work and retrospectively asking them what they need to feel safe, secure and be able to work productively. It would be a mistake to take the view that a survey is only going to be useful when ‘things return to normal.’

If there has ever been a time to understand your employees’ needs, it is now. An empathetic and considerate approach is vital. Supporting mental health in the workplace will be critical through such times of uncertainty. People have been socially isolating and they will need time to adjust when they come back to work. The more understanding employers have about the issues, the better they can plan, support and keep employees trust.

Surveying staff sends a positive message. It says you, as an employer, are listening – that you care. It will help you to understand pinch points and give staff the tools and support they need to work productively.

Communication is key

Employees will be asking: Will social distancing be adhered to? Will I come into contact with someone who could infect me? What new rules are there around hygiene? Will the company remain profitable and is my job at risk?

In such an unsettling period, employees need reassurance. Poor communication will only erode trust.

Staff will feel a lot happier when they are kept informed of any changes. Openness and trust are fundamentals of good company culture after all. A smooth transition of workers back into the workplace will rely on careful listening, empathy and open communication.

For businesses to be agile, they will need to survey employees much more regularly than before.

Questions you need to ask

  1. How ready do you feel to return to the workplace?
  2. What concerns do you have about returning to the workplace?
  3. What do you think you need to feel confident about returning to the office/workplace?
  4. How do you feel about commuting to work?
  5. How have you managed working remotely?
  6. How do you feel about working remotely in the future if that was an option?
  7. Is there anything you have missed while working from home?
  8. What are you looking forward to in regards to coming back to the workplace?

Consider a phased return to work based on survey results

What you do with your survey results is as important as the survey itself. There’s little point asking the right questions but doing nothing with the results. Sharing results and intended actions will build trust and credibility. It will build confidence in your employees that you are taking their safety and mental well-being seriously.

We Thrive’s survey software has been designed using human psychology to make gathering and acting on employee feedback quick and simple.

How people feel about going back to the workplace will be wildly different. Employers need to understand this and prepare for it. A phased return will enable staff to be properly supported. It is important employers understand that for some the transition will be harder. A survey could help employers to identify and prioritise the return of those employees who are keenest to get back to the workplace.

WeThrive are currently offering businesses the opportunity to survey their employees FREE with a Covid-19 employee engagement survey. Get in touch with the We Thrive team to find out more.