The Employer Engagement Guide: What to Ask Your Employees Before Returning to Work

Market Talent logo square AUTHOR

Ryan Kaye

- December 12th, 2022
Employer Hub

Welcome to Part Nine of the Employer Engagement Guide. Now the vaccines have been rolled out, many employers want their staff to return to work. We’ve pulled together a few questions to ask your team.

Return to work questions

Over the past few years, remote working has taken the world by storm. But now the vaccines have been rolled out, employers want their staff to return to work. As such, they’re looking into how they can get workers back into the office. The likes of Zoom and Slack will no longer be the latest craze anymore.

That said, not everyone wants to return to the office. And this is creating anxiety within several organisations.

Even pre-Covid, working from home was popular among many workers. Remote working provides physical perks like saving on commuting costs. What’s more, it’s a whole lot easier to sustain a work-life balance from home.

retun back to workHowever, not every worker wants to work from home all the time. Each person has their own preference. For example, a Slack survey discovered that 72% of employees favoured a hybrid way of working, which blends at-home days with in-office days.

A lot of managers agree on this as well. Another recent survey revealed that managers like offering hybrid working options. However, they dislike splitting it between at-home and on-site working schedules.

Employees enjoy working remotely on three days of the week, with 68% of leaders stating that to benefit from strong company culture, staff should spend at least three days in the office. 

How to have a back to work discussion with your staff

back to working

How an employer responded to the pandemic will affect employee relations. If an employer looked after their staff well, the employee is more likely to feel more productive, engaged, and happier overall. What’s more, they’ll probably stick around longer at the firm.

On the other hand, staff who felt neglected probably have plant to hand in their notice within the next year or so.

How you manage the return back to work is just as critical. Be as collaborative and compassionate as you can to sustain staff engagement. We advise having an open discussion with every member of staff.

Below, we’ve pulled together a few questions to ask your team:

1. How do you feel about working remotely?

While for some, working from home is a dream come true. For others, it’s total agony, consisting of interruptions and technical problems.

Instead of implementing a generic working schedule, consider working around each individual’s preferences. For some, this may mean they’re fully office-based, while others could work from home full-time.

Be completely transparent about your needs for in-office working schedules. Outline your requirements on the below:

  • Ensuring your staff is available for necessary in-the-flesh meetings.
  • Make sure there are plenty of workers in the office to take care of fundamental tasks like handling customers.
  • Offer every worker plenty of time on-site to encourage collaboration and strengthen the company culture.

When you fully understand your requirements, you’ll know how flexible you can be with each individual.

2. How safe is it to return to work?

Be sure it’s fully safe to return to work, as no one wants to feel unsafe. That said, a lot of staff feel under pressure to come back when you ask them to. To prevent, we recommend asking your team to voice their worries.

Should one of your workers feel unsafe, you could ease their anxieties by asking the below questions:

  • How can we help you feel safer?
  • Which risk makes you feel most anxious?
  • Are you worried because you fit into the high-risk Covid category?
  • If you aren’t ready to return to work, can you suggest some alternatives so we can help?

Often, you can ease workers’ anxieties by simply chatting through your safety procedures. If, after talking with your employee, you also feel they’re at risk, think about options like working from home continuously.

3. Are you planning on getting your vaccination?

The latest stats show that just 54% are willing to offer proof they’ve had their vaccination. This is a problem for managers because they’ll have to make arrangements for workers who choose not to receive a vaccination or those who can’t for medical reasons.

So, chat with every worker to gauge their feelings surrounding vaccinations.  You may experience a few vaccine uncertainty troubles. However, you can tackle these by providing data and support.

If an employee can’t have the vaccine, it’s your responsibility to find a place that safeguards them and their colleagues.

4. How will you cope if you find it hard in this transitional period?

return to work

Over the next couple of months, every employer and employee will encounter the ‘new normal’. Numerous employees will experience their first hybrid working schedule which isn’t anything like working fully remotely. To do this successfully, it’ll entail a lot of patience and time, not to mention a great deal of support from leadership.

Ahead of the large-scale return back to work, tell your workers you’re on hand if they need anything. Check back in with your employees over the next year or so and offer feedback sessions, surveys, and group chats so everyone can open up about their experience of transitioning beyond the pandemic.

5. What can we do to make your return to work easier?

Switching to teleworking was unprecedented and surprising. But companies worked efficiently to maintain the same level of productivity that there was before Covid-19. However, management can’t afford to put workers through the same angst again.

Going back to work after the pandemic must be organised, relaxed, and free of anxiety. Ahead of your staff returning to the office, ask them if they need any support. You’ll probably discover they need quite a list, including:

  • Help with childcare and travel.
  • Clarification on work-related anti-Covid protocols.
  • Support with arranging an at-home office for hybrid working.
  • Help to log into Employee Assistance Programs.
  • Reminders about specific protocols, such as handling in-person clients.

Most people will find it tricky to adjust to office working again after a whole year of working from home. Think about arranging a casual get-together with the team before the office return so that everyone can re-familiarise themselves. Or, in this post-Covid world, you may feel a smaller, socially-distanced gathering is more appropriate.

Another option is to consider staggering the return to the office, enabling workers to come back for one day initially, then two, three, a four-day working week, and so on.