How Surveys Can Help Guide Return-to-Work Plans

As we planned our return-to-office (RTO), our #1 priority was to ensure that our employees felt safe and confident returning on-site. Throughout the process, we conducted two surveys to ensure we understood how our team members were feeling, and also address any potential concerns.

Our surveys guided our decisions and helped us develop our policies. It made everyone feel as though they were a part of the planning process in some way, and that their voices were being heard. Here is an overview of the surveys we conducted and their results. We’re sharing this to demonstrate how surveys can be a valuable resource to help employers plan for a return on-site.

Survey #1 – Getting a Pulse on Employees Emotions

During the initial stages of our RTO planning, we wanted get a pulse on our team members’ emotions surrounding the thought of both returning on-site and staying at home. In May, we conducted a short survey that was mandatory to all employees.

Here are the questions we asked, along with the responses.

Q1. If you were given the opportunity to return to the office during COVID-19 with safety precautions, would you want to return?

  1. Yes (74% or 82 people)
  2. No (26% or 29 people)

Q2. Assuming we have a staggered approach to returning to the office, with 4 stages of return, which group would you see yourself being a part of?

  1. First stage to return (28.5% or 32 people)
  2. Second stage to return (21% or 23 people)
  3. Third stage to return (22% or 24 people)
  4. Fourth stage to return (28.5% or 31 people)

Q3. Post COVID-19, how many days would you see yourself working in the office?

  1. 5 days a week (13% or 14 people)
  2. 4 days a week (19% or 22 people)
  3. 3 days a week (37% or 40 people)
  4. 2 days a week (22% or 27 people)
  5. 1 day a week (6% or 7 people)
  6. 0 days a week (3% or 3 people)

Q4. Do you have any interest in working an alternative week in terms of days or hours? For example, as a Recruiter, you could work Tuesday – Saturday rather than Monday – Friday.

  1. Yes, there is a varying remote work arrangement that would appeal to me (13% or 14 people)
  2. No, I prefer to work a standard week of Monday – Friday (87% or 96 people)

Q5. Do you feel that you are equally productive working from home as working from the office?

  1. Yes, equally productive in both the office and at home (79% or 87 people)
  2. No, I am more productive working from home than I was in the office (14% or 15 people)
  3. No, I am less productive working from home than I was in the office (7% or 8 people)

Q6. Is your two-way communication with your Leader as effective now as it was when you were in the office?

  1. Yes, our communication is equally as effective (72% or 80 people)
  2. No, we had better communication when we were in the office together (13% or 14 people)
  3. Actually, we have better communication now than we did when we were in office (15% or 16 people)

Q7. Are there any actions that our team could take to increase the effectiveness of your remote work arrangement?

Answers included things like:

  • Supply proper office equipment in terms of chair, keyboard, mouse, desktop computer etc.
  • Creating a “unified communication platform” that everyone can use, purchase a new tool

Q8. What questions do you have for us in regards to “return to work”?

Answers included things like:

  • What will “office life” look like? Will there be social gatherings?
  • What happens if schools don’t open in September?
  • Will we need to wear PPE?
  • What will the four phases look like?
  • Will there be staggered work hours?
  • Will public spaces be washed?
  • Will we continue with video interviews and meetings?
  • Is it possible to grant full WFH access in the future?

Based on the results of this survey, we realized we needed to strengthen our communication process and clarify some key points with our employees. We took the feedback and integrated it into our RTO plans.

Survey #2 – Gearing up for a Return to the Office

Once our RTO plan was complete, we scheduled small group meetings via Zoom with team members to review the plans. We kept the roll-out sessions small, approximately 10-12 people, to allow for dialogue. We paused along the way to ask how everyone was feeling and if they had questions.

We made it very clear that our RTO for Stage 2 was 100% voluntary. But even having said that, we didn’t want our team members to feel pressured by how others felt. So rather than asking them on the spot in the roll-out session, or having their leader call them to ask directly if they were comfortable returning, we opted to send a follow-up survey. We did that because we thought people would be more honest about their feelings.

Here is what that survey looked like, including the responses:

Q1. Stage 2 will begin on September 15th, 2020. Are you comfortable returning to the office, 2 days per week, as a part of our Stage 2 group?

  1. Yes (54%) 
  2. No (46%) 

Q2. If you answered ‘Yes’ to Question #1, which of the following best describes your level of comfort when being in the office?

  1. Red – I am very cautious, I’d prefer we stay more than 2m apart, just to be safe (4.5%)
  2. Yellow – I am somewhat comfortable, and will follow all guidelines (38.7%)
  3. Green – I am very comfortable, not concerned and would high five you if I was allowed to! (21.6%)
  4. None, not returning (35.1%)

Q3. If you answered ‘No’ to Question #1, what is your primary concern?

Answers included things like:

  • I am still unsure about childcare / what is happening with back-to-school
  • I would have to take public transit and am not comfortable with that
  • I live with or care for an immunocompromised or vulnerable family member
  • I am worried about a second wave

Q4. After reviewing our “Return to Work” plan and process, was there anything you felt wasn’t addressed?

Answers included things like:

  • What mental health resources are available to me
  • What cleaning products will be made available to us in-office
  • Do I need to bring my equipment back and forth on the days I am working in the office (i.e. my  laptop, headset and mouse)

The results of the survey was split – with 54% wanting to return to the office and 46% wanting to continue to work from home. We are excited to be welcoming 74 employees back to the office for 2 days a week in September, and look forward to working in a blended on- and off-site work environment.

For more return-to-work and COVID-related HR resources, visit