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Welcome to the Prepare for returning to the workplace survey template


This survey template helps your organization plan an effective transition back to the workplace by gathering feedback on employee concerns, preferences, and needs. Learn more about how the survey was updated in 2021

This article includes:

The survey template is openly available for use by both Culture Amp customers and non-customers. If you are a customer, you can locate the template in the template library. Everyone else can access the survey template questions here.

NOTE: Account Admins and Survey Creators can launch the survey under Surveys > Create survey > COVID-19 pandemic response surveys > Prepare for returning to the workplace survey

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Overview

Organizations that have switched a significant proportion of their employees to working remotely are considering how to effectively transition their employees back to the workplace.

This survey can help you understand how your people are feeling, what concerns they may have about returning to the workplace, and help guide what an effective return plan might look like.

The survey can help you answer the following questions: 

  • Does additional support need to be put in place for employees still juggling caregiver responsibilities?
  • How safe do employees feel about returning to the workplace and how comfortable are they with new safety measures? 
  • Are managers feeling equipped to support their direct reports as they return to the workplace?

This survey is intended to go out to employees before the transition back to the workplace begins in order to inform your return to work strategy. That being said, it’s important not to launch it too early. Ideally, it should be launched when you are ready to start weighing up return to work options and making decisions - if launched too early, COVID-19 guidance and information may change, altering employees' attitudes. 

Survey questions 

The survey has been developed by the People Science team in collaboration with several global Culture Amp customers who are currently undergoing the transition back to the workplace themselves. This ensured we covered the topics that are most top of mind for leaders and HR at this time. 

While many of the Culture Amp survey templates focus on the organization (i.e. evaluating what the organization has done) the Return to the workplace questions focus on the individual and their own feelings and experiences. This is so the organization can take action and create a tailored approach based on how their employees are feeling. 

The survey consists of 37 questions on the following topics:

  • Overall Return Readiness
  • Support
  • Manager Support
  • My role
  • Wellbeing
  • Safety
  • Concerns

Note: Given the differences in mandates and legal requirements across regions, the questions in the survey are all designed to be optional so organizations can pick and choose the items that are relevant for them in their region.

The ‘Return Readiness’ outcome index

Much like our usual engagement surveys, the Return to the workplace survey has an outcome measure; in this case ‘Return Readiness’ (learn more about outcome measures here). In the same way that you can’t just make someone feel more engaged, you can’t make an employee feel safe and ready to return to the workplace - you need to understand what things are impacting that experience, and what levers you can pull to make them feel more ready. 

If using the template within the Culture Amp platform, Impact Analysis will show which questions are having the biggest impact on the Return Readiness outcome measure, and help you prioritize where to focus your efforts or tailor your return to work strategy. 

How to use the template

Prepare for returning to the workplace template has been designed so customers can pick and choose the questions that are relevant to them and the stage they are at in the return to work process. Additionally, there are two changes you will need to make:

  • Branching for Manager Support items: The items in the Manager Support section are intended to only be answered by managers. If you already have manager status as a demographic in your employee data file, you can set up a demographic branching rule. If you do not, you can set up answer-based branching using the question “Are you a people manager?”
  • Add your own safety measures: The question “I would feel comfortable being in the workplace if [safety protocol e.g. wearing a mask/temperature check / social distancing ] is in place” is designed to be replicated as many times as you need, depending on which safety protocols you would like to get feedback on. For example, you might want to ask about social distancing and having a temperature check so you would add this question twice, changing the words that show in the parentheses:
    • I would feel comfortable being in the workplace if social distancing is in place
    • I would feel comfortable being in the workplace if temperature checks are in place

Self-report demographics

Self-report demographics are a helpful way to understand the nuanced experiences of your employees. During COVID-19 we’ve seen demographics such as ‘Caregiver responsibilities’ and ‘Living status’ become much more important and provide a useful lens when trying to understand the employee experience and how this may differ across our employee population during this time. 

We have automatically included a set of demographic questions in our template for you to review. Here is more information on these suggested self-reported demographics to help you understand your workforce in light of transitioning back to the workplace:

Question

Responses

What it can help you identify

What is your living status?

Living alone

Living with family

Living with other people

With employees having spent significant time at home, are those who have been living alone more keen to get back to the office? Or are those living with families now eager to interact with others and resume more boundaries in their home and work life?

Where are you currently living?

In usual residence

In other residence (same state/county)

In other residence (different state/county)

In other residence (abroad)

Before the COVID-19 restrictions were enforced, employees may have left their usual residence to stay somewhere else. Employees could now be in other states or even countries that prevent them from easily traveling and returning to the workplace in line with when the office reopens

What are your caregiving responsibilities?

Children (part- or full-time)

Other adults

Children and other adults

No caregiving responsibilities

Many employees will still be juggling caregiving responsibilities while transitioning back to work, particularly if schools do not reopen in line with offices

Are there any travel restrictions in place that could prevent you from returning to the workplace from your current residence? 

Yes - legal restrictions 

Yes - public transport restrictions

Unsure 

No 

While offices start to reopen, travel restrictions may continue to be in place in some areas. Will employees be able to travel to the workplace from their current location?

How do you usually travel to work?

Walk

Cycle

Drive

Taxi

Public Transport

Other

Travel will be a concern for many, particularly those that rely on public transport to get into the workplace. Are employees now planning to use other modes of transport and if so, is the organization set up to accommodate this?

How do you plan to travel to work once the COVID-19 restrictions are lifted?

Prior to COVID-19 did you work remotely?

Always

Sometimes

Never

For many employees, the COVID-19 pandemic is the first time they have worked remote - understanding their experience and whether there’s an appetite to continue will be key in return to work planning

Are you a people manager?

Yes

No

Managers are going to play a crucial role in helping their employees return back to the workplace - they’ll be a vital source of support and play an important role in making the transition a success

Are you returning from furlough?

Yes

No

(New furlough demographic item added in 2021) Employees returning from furlough may experience different challenges when returning to the workplace compared to those who have continued to work during the COVID-19 pandemic

 

As always, with any sensitive demographics or questions, consult with your legal team if you have any queries around what is appropriate to include in your context.  

FAQs

Are there benchmarks for this survey?

Yes, this survey is included in our 2021 benchmarks when enough customers have asked these questions within that group (e.g., industry or region).

What changed in the 2021 update?

Since the template was originally released in the first half of 2020, the following updates have been made to reflect changing priorities and the evolution of work during the pandemic: 

Manager Support - New items to be asked of the manager population only. To ensure they have the support and resources in place to help their direct reports make an effective transition back to the workplace. Learn how to set up branching questions in this article.

My Role - New items to gauge whether employees have clarity on their role as they return to the workplace and understand their responsibilities. These items will be particularly relevant to those returning from furlough or those who have been out of the workplace for several months

Mental Health - New items on access to and satisfaction with mental health resources provided by the organization during the COVID-19 pandemic

Safety Measures - The items on safety measures have been updated to anchor on observable behavior rather than an employee's wants or wishes. Proper safety protocols at the start of the pandemic were unknown and so it was more useful to understand what employees felt comfortable with. Now that there are fairly clear legal guidelines and supporting research for proper safety protocols, companies should not be building their safety procedures on employee sentiment but rather should be educating employees on the mandated/research-supported safety protocols being enacted. As a result, the items now ask employees to confirm that they have been informed of whether there are any safety changes, rather than if they would like them. If required, organizations may ask for additional items to understand the level of comfort employees feel with the mandated safety requirements. 

Remote Working - The remote working items have been removed from this template. If planning for a new remote workplace or you would like to evaluate the effectiveness of current remote work processes please see the additional Culture Amp remote work question set.

Can I incorporate some of the Prepare for returning to the workplace questions into my engagement survey? 

For many, there is value in combining the engagement survey with the return to work survey; either because of time constraints or not wanting to send an additional survey out to employees.  

If you do decide to combine both templates, we’d recommend keeping the engagement items and the return to work items as discrete sections in the survey since they are framed in different ways. 

What if I work for a global company and some regions have already returned to work?

While the survey is designed to collect feedback from employees before they return, we know that for many large organizations their offices will not open in tandem. If you are a global organization, surveying some employees with the Return to the workplace survey and not others could send a signal that certain regions or offices don’t matter as much. Where possible, we’d recommend surveying the entire employee population - even if that means tweaking the questions you are asking to employees who have already started to return to the workplace. We'd suggest amending the Return to work questions into past-looking items, so asking how those things were at the time they returned rather than how they expect them to be in the future.  There may be aspects you can still improve upon using that information. 

What if I have employees who have still been working onsite during COVID-19 restrictions? 

We understand that some organizations were able to keep part of their workforce onsite during the COVID-19 restrictions and it will be important to gather feedback from that population, too. Employees that were able to continue working on-site may feel apprehensive about other colleagues starting to return, and they may have unique concerns and perspectives. Questions from the survey can be tweaked to align with their differing experience, and some useful items to ask include:

  • I am feeling energized about my colleagues returning to the workplace
  • I would like my company to implement more safety measures as colleagues return to the workplace
  • I would feel comfortable raising concerns as my colleagues transition back to the workplace 

What are the MOST important questions I should ask? 

If running the full Return to the workplace survey isn’t feasible, we’d recommend asking a few key questions to help you understand sentiment across the core topic areas:

  • Return Readiness (Outcome) - I am confident I can make an effective transition back to the workplace
  • Support - I am able to manage any caring responsibilities while transitioning back to work (e.g. child care, looking after dependents)
  • Wellbeing - I feel confident that any changes to my personal circumstances will not impact my ability to do my job effectively
  • Free Text - What can my company do to support you as you make the transition back to work? 

These questions, coupled with some of the self-reported demographics mentioned above can help give a high-level overview of employees’ sentiment towards returning to the workplace and where to focus efforts. 



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