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Keeping in touch with employees during Covid

Most organizations have done a great job of keeping in touch with employees during the Covid pandemic – however we’re not out of the woods yet – and many organizations, (our clients included), continue to check in by adding questions specific to the current work environment to their regular employee survey.

Start by creating two groups of questions based on where they work

First off, there are conceptually two employee audiences to think about when asking your pandemic-related questions:

  1. those working primarily at home
  2. those working on site

There will probably be some (or these days, most) who are both, but you’ll still be grouping your questions into those two categories during your question design phase.

Add a trigger/filter question to target the right group(s)

How do you direct the right questions to the right people?  Use a trigger or filter question – an example would be:

  • Are you working:
    • At home
    • On site
    • Both: some days on site and some days at home

Based on the answer to that, you can direct the respondents accordingly by either:

  • hiding/showing the appropriate questions on the survey page based on their choice (this is what we do)
  • creating multiple versions of the survey and redirecting them based on their choice
  • (the cheap and easy version) grouping the questions together by type and adding text “Only to be answered by those working at home.” etc.

What to ask – developing your questions

You might want to review our other Pro Tips concerning question design (ex. “Double-Barrel” questions – what are they and how do I avoid them?), but as always you’ll want to be asking questions that:

  • are well constructed / not confusing
  • are asked in the “positive” (always make Strongly Agree “a good thing”, and don’t use negative questions)
  • use a 6-point scale (when asking for an opinion)
  • are asking one thing at a time
  • are “actionable” (as opposed to those just of interest)

Here are some examples of questions we have used ourselves in actual surveys.

Questions for employees working at home (whether partial or full-time)

  • I have the technology I need to work remotely.
  • I have been able to set up an area to work that is free from distraction.
  • I feel trusted to work at home and deliver results.

Questions for employees working on site (whether partial or full-time)

  • The safety protocols in place are adequate for employees.
  • I have access to the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) I need to keep safe at work.

Questions that apply to both groups

  • I am getting the information I need to complete my work.
  • I am provided with good work support from my supervisor during this period.
  • I feel in the loop regarding daily decision-making in my organization.
  • I feel that management is doing well in communication about the COVID-19 situation and its impact on the organization.
  • I know how to access our Employee and Family Assistance Program (EFAP).

It’s also a good idea to add a few open-ended questions, such as:

  • What is working well during the pandemic?
  • What could be improved during the pandemic?

“Returning to Work” – Questions about the next phase

As we move forward, keep in mind that there is also the need to get feedback on either a full or partial return to the workplace.

You’ll have to be VERY cautious here, as you don’t want to ask questions that result in answers that you are not planning to provide as an option.  Clearly there will also be differences between jobs, as there are some jobs that must be done on site.

If you do want to ask them, and believe that by asking them you won’t have a revolution on your hands, these would be in the form of:

  • I would like an option to work at home
  • I want to come back to the workplace
  • How many days do you hope to work at home over the next 6 months?
  • How many days do you hope to work at home a year from now?
  • How many days do you hope to work at home when things “return to normal”?

To recap

  1. As we progress further in the pandemic, it is helpful to add questions to your regular survey about how your employees are coping.
  2. Split your questions into two conceptual groups (“at home” / “on site”), and use a trigger/filter question to get the appropriate questions to the appropriate group(s).
  3. Use 6-point-scaled questions for any question requiring an opinion or level of agreement.
  4. Add a few open-ended questions at the end.
  5. Be very cautious asking questions about returning to the workplace..

Hope this was of help, but as always give me a shout if you would like to discuss!

Next up: Pro Tip Series 23 – Avoiding unactionable questions

Thanks for reading, and if you’re interested in discussing a survey for your organization call us at 1-604-219-7876, email us at [email protected], or just book a discovery call with our team.

We love to engage in curious conversation! Grab a time on my calendar if you’d like to elaborate more on this topic or anything else
Maureen Simons

Maureen Simons is a senior human resources and communication consultant with over 25 years of experience helping clients achieve their business and organizational objectives through their people. (Linkedin)

Picture of Adam Hunter

Adam Hunter has a Bachelors degree in Mechanical Engineering, an MBA, and 35+ years of technical and programming experience, resulting in a broad mix of analytical, statistical, project-related and business skills. (Linkedin)