The 3 Most Relevant Topics For Work Environment Survey Questions In 2021
By Emily Killham - July 12, 2021
As the world moves beyond the COVID-19 pandemic and businesses settle into a new normal, there are a number of new work environment survey questions you should be asking employees to guide the transition. With many organizations planning to offer remote and hybrid remote/on-site work options to employees, the work environment is no longer just the physical office—it extends into the digital workspace and into employees’ homes as well.
In this transition, it will be difficult for organizations to ensure a positive work environment for all employees—unless there is careful thought and planning to address the implications of this new hybrid work model.
That’s only the beginning of the challenge. Most employees want more flexibility for hybrid work arrangements, but there are differences between what employees want and what executives and management want; one concern for leaders and managers is the challenge of acculturating employees who are not in the office all the time.
In this article, we’ll examine what you should be asking in questionnaires on the employee work environment as we transition into a new normal, which will look quite different from the pre-pandemic workplace.
The work environment is important, but it’s only one aspect of a good employee experience. Download our free People Analytics Playbook to learn what else you should be asking about in your surveys.
3 Newly Relevant Topics For Work Environment Survey Questions
Going forward there will be several iterations of work environments. Creating a good work environment pre-pandemic was a challenge—but now that challenge has become much more complex. You need employee feedback to guide your planning and policies. Survey questions addressing the following topics will give you the insights you need to create the best possible work environment for all employees.
1. Ensuring Equity For Remote Employees
In planning the workplace of the future, managing the perceptions of people in the organization who work on-site towards those who work remotely will become increasingly important. “Office-ism”—a bias in favor of those who work in the physical workplace versus those who work remotely—is a new topic that should be included on surveys about the work environment due to the implications for equity.
Equity issues arising from remote and hybrid work arrangements pose challenges to HR teams, who will likely struggle to come up with policies and procedures to level the playing field. They will need to help executives understand the equity challenges as well as the implications for engagement and retention. HR needs to be able to come to the table with work arrangements that look flexible from the candidate’s perspective; at the same time, HR must be able to “sell” purposeful reasons for new hires to be on-site for onboarding as well as other critical activities, to help the employee become connected to the organization and his or her team.
In the post-pandemic competition for talent, HR teams are desperate to get high-quality candidates to say yes; the challenge will be follow-through to make sure management and leadership honor the bargain. Remote or flexible hybrid work arrangements won’t hold much appeal for top talent if they are accompanied by inequities in development and advancement opportunities. To address (and hopefully prevent) those inequities, it’s important to get a read on perceptions about employees who work outside of the office on a part- or full-time basis.
Here are some sample work environment survey questions designed to uncover biases about remote and hybrid work and employees. These items can be scored by employees on a five-point Likert scale, to gauge agreement or disagreement with each statement.
- Remote employees are not as productive as when they work in the office.
- It is more effective to collaborate when everyone is physically together than when some are remote.
- It is too difficult to find people when they are working remotely.
- Managers spend less time with their remote employees.
- Team members working remotely have too many distractions.
- It is easier to gauge productivity when employees and managers work in the same physical location.
- Employees in the physical workplace have more opportunities for career growth and development.
- Managers and employees who are in the same physical location have better relationships.
- Teams have better relationships when they are in the same physical location.
For guidance in determining remote work policies and planning physical workspace, tile-and-drill items—asking respondents to rank a list of topics in order of importance to them and rate how satisfied or dissatisfied they are with each—may be helpful. Include items to assess employee perceptions about the following:
- Where are you most productive?
- Which work tasks are most productively performed in the office?
- Which work tasks are most productively performed remotely?
- Does technology work when you need it?
Include items that measure employee perceptions about when they feel like they need to be together to accomplish different tasks:
- Collaborative projects
- Team meetings
- Independent work projects
Responses to these items will give you an understanding of where employees want to do specific tasks, which can guide design of policy and the physical workspace.
2. Utilization Of Technology
When the “Zoom boom” occurred early in the pandemic, many remote employees felt included in meetings for the first time; the video interface feels more collaborative than a conference call. Now that videoconferencing has become ubiquitous, some workers are reporting “Zoom fatigue” from so much time on camera.
Companies are now setting camera policies to decide which meetings can be handled with phone calls and which should be conducted via videoconference. Here’s a good rule of thumb: If the meeting would typically be conducted face-to-face, use videoconferencing. One Perceptyx client has made a policy that if one person has to join a meeting via video or teleconference, then the meeting will be conducted via Zoom; this levels the playing field for the participation of employees who are working remotely.
3. Employee Burnout
The pandemic has shown the need to focus on the emotional health of employees no matter where they’re working. While frontline workers struggled with anxiety about their personal safety and the safety of their families, remote workers were faced with an entirely new way of working—in many cases while also juggling caregiving and teaching/tutoring duties. Although the worst of the pandemic appears to be behind us, employees are still under stress due to uncertainty and short staffing. Some may still have safety concerns. It’s important to understand the stresses that employees are dealing with.
All surveys about the work environment should include items to measure employee stress and identify the friction points responsible for stress. Identifying and (wherever possible) alleviating these sources of stress will help prevent burnout and the lower productivity and higher attrition that accompanies it.
Responses to these three categories of work environment survey questions will give insight into the most relevant current issues. As organizations continue to move into a new, post-pandemic normal, questionnaires on the employee work environment need to focus on productivity, development, and employee emotional health. While these have always been important areas of focus, the increase in remote and hybrid work raises new issues related to productivity and development—and the issue of employee emotional health has gained new prominence as a result of our collective pandemic experience.
Need help designing the post-pandemic work environment in your organization?
At Perceptyx, helping companies identify barriers to improvement is our goal. With custom surveys, an advanced people analytics platform, and expertise in all aspects of survey design, strategy, and communication, we can help you create an effective employee listening program and identify what you should be asking employees to improve the experience in your company. Get in touch and let us show you how.