Return to Work Survey: Questions to Ask Employees Before You Reopen Your Office

By

Max Shepherd-Cross

·

December 22, 2021

TABLE OF CONTENTS

It’s no secret the pandemic changed the way we work and how employees feel about work. Both employees and employers in a PwC survey agreed that employee productivity increased during the pandemic, while employees in the same survey said they’d prefer to work remotely a few days a week after the pandemic, too.

When you reopen your office, ignore employee preferences at your own peril. As mass resignations during the pandemic have shown, employees aren’t afraid to quit their jobs to look for opportunities that fit their personal and career aspirations.

Return to work surveys are your best bet to gauge employees’ needs as they come back to the office and to retain your best talent. A single return to work survey won’t suffice, though. You’ll need to send different return to work surveys over a period of time to get an idea of employees’ expectations of their workplace, what makes them feel confident about returning to work, and the future role of your office.  

#1. Return to Office Survey Questions to Gauge Workforce Readiness

Your first return to work survey should start a conversation about returning to work. Globally, employees have a strong preference for hybrid work. So in your first employee survey, find out the working arrangements your employees prefer most.

For employees who are reluctant to come to the office, you’ll need to know why, so you can either reevaluate your return to work plans or provide facilities that make it easier for employees to come to the office.

Use this questionnaire to find return to work preferences and concerns.

How comfortable do you feel coming back into the office? (Add a reopening date here, if you have one)  

  • Very confident, can’t wait to get back
  • Somewhat confident, not sure if it’s the right thing to do
  • Not confident at all, I’d rather work remotely

What are your major concerns about returning to the office? (Check all that apply)

  • Catching Covid-19 while commuting
  • Catching Covid-19 in the office
  • Decreased flexibility
  • Decreased productivity while working in the office
  • Arranging for childcare
  • Other (please specify)

Which of these working arrangements do you prefer most?

  • Remote
  • In-office
  • Hybrid (Part in-office, part remote)
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#2. Return to Work Survey Questions to Understand Employee Needs Related to Hybrid Work  

For teams that support hybrid work, ask employees if they have any major concerns related to hybrid work. For instance, managers we spoke to about hybrid workplace management cited communication silos and hybrid events as major challenges. Our guide on hybrid work challenges can help you overcome some of these.

Employees who work majority-remote may also need compensation for exclusive in-office perks like childcare or fitness classes, or they may need additional equipment to work successfully from home. Based on employee needs, you can craft appropriate reimbursement policies for equipment and wellness and health stipends.

Before transitioning to hybrid work, ask employees to weigh in on their specific needs.

What are your main concerns around hybrid work? (Check all that apply)

  • Fewer social interactions with colleagues
  • Fairness and equitability among in-office and remote employees
  • Communication silos
  • Chaotic hybrid meetings
  • Few opportunities to participate in work events
  • None
  • Other (please specify)

Which in-office perks do you use the most? (Check all that apply)

  • Childcare
  • Fitness classes/gyms
  • Yoga sessions
  • Books/games
  • Spa or massage services
  • Other (please specify)

Do you have all the equipment and support to work from home?

  • Yes, I have everything I need.
  • No, I need the following: ____

#3. Return to Office Survey Questions to Estimate Office Space

In a hybrid work environment, your office won’t be used the same way as before when everyone signed in to work every day. Ask employees about their expected office usage, so you can better estimate the needs of your company's offices, conference rooms, and other amenities.

Based on how often employees use the office, estimate cleaning and other supplies you’ll need to stock up on, like food and office stationery.

You might also learn that your office needs a redesign based on the common activities employees use the office for. For instance, if most employees wish to use the office for deep work and team meetings, you’ll need more quiet individual workspaces and casual-style seating for teams. On the other hand, if employees prefer to conduct client meetings in the office, you’ll need more phone and conference rooms.

Office usage expectations may also reveal the total number of desks you need in your office on average. If employees won’t be coming to the office every day, you could adopt hot desking. But before you implement hot desking, you’ll need to know if employees have any concerns, like loss of personal space or lack of cleanliness. Based on their responses, implement appropriate measures to make hot desking a pleasant experience for employees. You might also need to equip desks with special equipment, like double monitors or an external mouse for employees who need them.  

How many days a week would you like to come to the office?

  • 1-2
  • 2-4
  • 3-5

Which days are you most likely to come to the office? (Check all that apply)

  • Monday
  • Tuesday
  • Wednesday
  • Thursday
  • Friday

For how long will you be in office?

  • Full day
  • Half-day
  • Few hours (specify the time)

Which activities will you be in the office for? (Check all that apply)

  • Regular work (email, deep work, miscellaneous activities)
  • Team meetings
  • Client meetings
  • Deep work only
  • Casual brainstorming with the team

How do you feel about hot desking?

  • Optimistic
  • Negative, don’t like the idea
  • Would be willing to give it a try

If you don’t like the idea of hot desking, which of the following measures make you feel confident about hot desking? (check all that apply)

  • Strict cleanliness policies
  • Availability of lockers for personal belongings
  • Prior desk booking to avoid wasting time
  • Other (please specify)

What type of desk are you most comfortable working on?

  • Standing desk
  • Regular, traditional desk

Which special equipment would you like on your desk?  (check all that apply)

  • Double monitors
  • External mouse
  • External keyboard
  • None of the above
  • Any other (please specify)

Employee Support Can Make or Break Your Return to Work Plans

Your return to work plans will likely involve some degree of change in your office policies, design, and work schedule. But employee resistance to change could lead to resentment among employees, loss of productivity, and even employee exits.

Proactively asking employees what they need when they return to work and communicating your plans is the best way to win employee support and implement big changes like hybrid work and hot desking.

For more tips on preparing for hybrid work, check out our hybrid work checklist for managers.

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Max Shepherd-Cross

Max is one of the cofounders and CEO of Officely.

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