The year 2020 saw a dramatic rise in remote work—and that trend seems here to stay. In fact, an estimated 70% of the workforce will be working remotely at least five days a month by 2025.
If your organization has embraced remote work, by choice or by necessity, it’s important to understand how your employees are adjusting, what their needs are, and how well they feel supported and empowered to perform.
But getting those insights requires strategic communication and intentional efforts to solicit feedback from your remote workers.
Employee surveys are a good option for organizations to gain insight into employee perceptions of remote work dynamics and communication. However, they aren’t the only way to hear from employees.
In this blog we’ll discuss:
- How to gather information about remote work
- The questions you should and shouldn’t ask your employees
- When and why you should ask them
How to gather feedback from employees about remote work
Here are a few ways you can collect information from your employees about their expectations and perceptions about remote and hybrid workplaces:
As more workplaces embrace some degree of remote work, effective one-on-one conversations have become even more critical. Whether your organization is just getting started with one-on-ones or has been using them for years, managers should be meeting with their direct reports individually to discuss their performance and how well they are doing in a remote environment.
1-on-1s can be leveraged for the following scenarios:
1. To uncover employee emotions, goals, or obstacles.
Asking an individual how well they’re adapting to remote work or connecting to the team and company culture gives you a deeper sense of their personal feelings and concerns. This information can help you determine whether your organization or you as a manager can help address them.
2. To help employees who are struggling to communicate or meet performance expectations.
Communication is key to any successful team. But remote work adds an extra level of complexity and when lack of communication or miscommunication occurs. It can quickly throw off your team workflows and impact project quality and deadlines.
A personal conversation works best to help a manager and employee discuss challenges, understand what level of management and accountability is needed, and come to a solution that works for both parties.
3. To check in on goal alignment.
Remote work has many advantages, but if employees are newly remote, the adjustment can be jarring. Taking time to align on goals and objectives provides clarity and focus.
Here are some questions you can ask to uncover key pain points and opportunities for your remote employees:
- What concerns do you have?
- Are there any additional materials, training, or equipment that you need to be successful?
- Are there any obstacles that would need to be solved in order for you to meet your goals?
- Is there anything I as your manager can help you with?
- Are there ways that our team as a whole could better support you?
- Is there anything our organization could do to better support our employees?
- What’s one process or practice that you’d like to see our team or organization continue?
- What’s one process or practice that you’d like to see our team or organization revise or stop?
One way to get a more thorough understanding of your employees’ circumstances is through survey data. Pulse surveys help organizations gain quick insight into how employees feel about critical topics such as communication, their ability to work remotely, and work-life balance.
These surveys provide a snapshot of how employees are doing and give people leaders the ability to dive into the data by demographics or team to target their action accordingly. Asking employees for their input is an important way to keep your employees engaged—no matter where they are working.
Asking for feedback with these lightweight surveys demonstrates that you care about your employees and provides real-time insights to help you make adjustments and navigate your business through a remote or “return to work” strategy.
When deciding if a topic would be appropriate to ask your employees, ask yourself:
1. Will employee feedback or perceptions impact our decision on this topic?
If input from employees will not change how you will handle a given topic, don’t include it on your survey.
2. Do we have the capacity to respond, react, or take action on the survey results?
Limit your survey to topics that your team can reasonably respond to or take into consideration.
3. Will we be able to follow up with employees about specific concerns?
Avoid including questions about individual employee needs in a company-wide survey. These questions are likely better addressed in a one-on-one conversation between the employee and their manager.
Remote working survey questions to ask employees (do’s and don’ts)
There are a few specific topics associated with remote work that we recommend keeping in your survey and a few you should leave out:
Be the primary avenue for addressing individual employees’ personal and family situations.
Ask survey questions specific about personal or family situations.
Use employee feedback to understand concerns and realities or collect additional ideas, and recognize the wide spectrum of individual differences.
Apply a one-size-fits-all approach for employees or put out a blanket request for volunteers to return to the workplace.
Keep continuous conversations with employees about their well-being and nudge teams to make the right choices for themselves.
Ask generic questions about well-being or emotions that can be misinterpreted or change day-to-day.
Remote work pulse survey templates
Transitioning to or from a remote work environment can greatly impact employees’ experiences. Empathizing with and listening to your workforce will help you make better decisions and support your employees effectively.
One way of doing this is by launching a pulse survey with remote working survey questions to gauge employee perceptions.
These templates can help you understand how best to support employees, anticipate questions, and get prepared to answer transparently.
Working From Home: Lessons Learned
Purpose: If you’re transitioning back to the office, learn about what worked well and what may need to be improved as employees return from working from home back to the workplace.
When: Conduct this pulse at any time to assess the effectiveness of your work from home initiatives and processes. The results of this pulse might inform future work from home policies and how remote employees can be more supported, connected, and aligned with their managers, teams, and organization.
Questions to Ask:
- I felt supported by my manager when working from home.
- I felt connected to my team when working from home.
- I felt informed about the organization’s goals and priorities when working from home.
- What’s one process or practice that you would like to see continued when we return?
- What’s one process or practice that you would like to see revised or stopped when we return?
- How often would you prefer to work from home?
Workplace Reopening or Return to Work
To ensure your employees are set up for success when they may return to the workplace.
When to Use It:
Send this pulse as you are planning your return to the workplace strategy. Specifically, use this pulse for organizations, locations, or roles that are returning to the office to better understand employees’ concerns and needs ahead of the transition.
Questions to Ask:
- I trust our leaders to take appropriate safety measures before allowing employees to return to our workplace.
- I feel well-informed about the safety measures being taken to allow our employees to return to the workplace.
- I have the materials and resources needed to perform my job safely in the workplace.
- My organization encourages employees to stay home if I am sick or a family member is sick.
- How can we foster a safer work environment upon reopening?
Remote Work Planning
For organizations to build out flexible workplace policies and environments based on employee preferences and needs.
When to Use It:
Use this pulse template survey to gather feedback on workplace preferences like hybrid, remote, or in-office to effectively shape the future of your organization.
Questions to Ask:
- Which of the following work arrangements do you prefer:
- Fully remote (locally)
- Fully remote (distributed)
- Fully at the office
- Based on what you know now, and given your position, role, and responsibility, if provided flexibility, how many days would you expect to work in the office an average week?
- Imagine total flexibility. Which days would you prefer to work in our office, if any?
- I am confident my manager will support our future remote or flexible work policy.
- Please explain your ideal work environment (hybrid, remote, at the office) and why.
Remote Work Effectiveness
To understand managers’ perspectives on their team’s ability to successfully work remotely.
When to Use It:
If your organization is considering a remote or flexible work arrangement, check in with your managers first to see how those policies may impact the team’s performance and engagement, and uncover specific challenges or resources needed to make it work.
Questions to Ask:
- My team has the tools and resources needed to support remote work.
- I can effectively coach my team members when they work remotely.
- I am willing to try new or different tactics to manage a team that works remotely.
- What positive impacts do you anticipate if employees work remotely all or some of the time?
- What negative impacts do you anticipate if employees work remotely all or some of the time?
- To manage a remote team, what tools, resources, or training do you need to be effective?
Want to leverage these questions or topics in your organization’s remote work plan? Download our free Pulse Survey Templates.