Employee Experience

How to get started with the Return to Work Pulse

May 1, 2020 // 12min read

The importance of assessing employees' readiness to return to work

COVID-19 has had a profound effect on every single human – whether they’ve caught the virus themselves, lost a loved one, lost their job, been furloughed, or dealt with any other difficult circumstances.

People want to get back to work and we want them to get back to work. But it’s crucial that we do it the right way.

2 out of 3 people said they would feel uncomfortable returning to the workplace right now

Without a doubt it’s created concerns for people that were probably not previously top of mind such as:

  • Is my workplace disinfected?
  • Will I come into contact with someone at work who could infect me or vice versa?
  • How can I still work if I have caretaker responsibilities and no one else to help me out?
  • Will my company remain profitable through this disruption?

As companies begin to think of reopening the physical work environment, they need to be ready to address these concerns to ensure a smooth transition back into the workplace.

How will you understand and address these concerns?

Our XM Scientists, a team of IO psychology experts, have developed a free, Return To Work Pulse focusing on assessing employee readiness to return to the workplace.

The Return To Work Pulse should be deployed before your people go back to their workplace. It’s a single, point-in-time measurement.

It’s important that no employee at your organization should receive this survey more than once. This is because it’s only to assess their comfort and readiness to return to the workplace. Return to Work Pulse is a free, fast way to accelerate better decisions on the timing and actions needed to reopen your workplace and re-engage employees.

This quick-to-launch automated feedback solution helps HR and people leaders, operations and technology leaders, and the entire C-suite to:

  • Quickly assess employees' concerns and confidence levels
  • View critical sentiment from unstructured responses
  • Provide leadership with visibility into the needs and requirements of employees before they return to work
  • Use employee sentiment data to ensure decisions on when, how, and who will return to work

The questions are organized into the workplace dimensions that are most relevant right now. Such as:

  • How comfortable do you feel returning to work?
  • What specific concerns do you have returning to the office or workplace?
  • What are you looking forward to when you go back to the office (and why)?

It will also help your people to understand:

  • Changes to company policies or procedures (e.g., health and safety protocols)
  • Their own personal role in maintaining a safe working environment

And help you and your organization understand:

  • How comfortable employees are with travel and commuting (for traveling employees)
  • Their potential interest in working remotely (if that option becomes available)
  • What resources and help they may need for their individual job function or role

Plus, you’ll be able to get feedback and suggestions from employees on how to make their workplace safer.

5 tips for running a successful pulse

Thinking through these topics ahead of creating your pulse will allow you to pinpoint relevant questions and anticipate the actions you’ll need to take after the results come back.

  1. Focus on what matters for people right now. Many employees are facing new challenges and may find themselves overwhelmed with the level of change to their normal routine, including increased health checks such as more hand washing and temperature checks, or new social protocols when you are onsite in a facility.
  2. Only ask the questions that matter. Determine the right questions that you need answers to now. Anything else can wait.
  3. Lead with empathy. It’s critical to collect open and honest feedback from your employees in order to support them. Acknowledge that morale can go down during this challenging time and that some employees may find it more difficult to adjust to being back at work with new social norms and may fear for their own personal safety and others.
  4. Make the pulse your own. Make sure that the tone and content of the questions are right for your organization. Consult leaders across various lines of business for their input and insights.
  5. Keep the end goal in mind. Think about what you want to know about your workforce, and what sort of actions you’ll be able to take following the results.

What do I do with my results?

You can start looking at the survey report when the survey is live, as the data is reported in real-time. But bear in mind that results can still change.

Once the survey is closed, and the final survey report is ready, review the results with a group of key stakeholders.

Step 1: How comfortable are people about returning to work?

Start by looking at employee comfort in returning to work. How are your people feeling overall? Are there any major gaps between locations or teams across the organization?

Step 2: What are their concerns about returning to work?

Then look at the employee's concerns in returning to the physical office/workplace. Identify the top 3-5 topics which seem to be the biggest pain points. You will probably have to make a list of the key topics for your employees based on the frequency of in-person interactions.

Step 3: Identify issues

Work with the group on the root causes of the issues. Reading the open comments can be useful to understand the context and identify underlying issues.

Step 4: Identify actions

Start to list possible corrective actions that will make employees feel more comfortable when returning to work. Then prioritize the actions:

  • What is most important for your people’s health and safety?
  • What is absolutely critical for business continuity?
  • What is the effort needed to implement these actions?

Be pragmatic and determine 1-2 quick actions your organization can start to implement immediately to make a step in the right direction.

Step 5: Tell your people what actions you’re taking

Make sure that the survey results are not only shared back with employees, but that it’s clear what actions the organization is taking as a result of this feedback.

Considering the changing environment, it is better to have an agile, iterative approach and show progress, rather than spending too much time digging into a detailed action plan which may become quickly outdated.

Go one step further...

The Return to Work suite of XM solutions can help your organization accelerate the success of your return to work initiatives and get a more comprehensive employee listening mechanism.

This suite of solutions can help your teams decide when and how to reopen safely, while maintaining continuous feedback as teams re-board.

It can help HR, IT, Ops leaders and managers implement new processes and ensure employee experience leads to business success.

Key focus areas include:

  • Improving leadership effectiveness through disruption
  • Facilities and Safety assessments
  • Identifying technology services that best enable the new normal
  • Employee health screening and self-certification


Learn more about Return to Work Pulse features and best practices in our live demo and Q&A

Anne Raeven // XM Scientist, Qualtrics

As part of the Qualtrics Scientists team, Anne advises on survey methodology and program design. Her focus is on creating scalable solutions to drive change and improve the Employee Experience. Anne has 15 years of experience in Consulting, and has been involved in large-scale business transformation programmes in various industries including energy, hospitality and manufacturing.

Tara Di Domenico // Principal Employee Experience (EX) Consultant

Tara is a Principal Consultant, Employee Experience for Qualtrics, supporting clients in designing and scaling employee experience programs. She has deep expertise helping organizations create workplaces that are both engaging and productive. She has 10+ years of experience consulting with senior leaders and Fortune 500 companies and holds a Masters Degree in I/O Psychology from New York University.

Tika Wadhwa // Principal Employee Experience (EX) Consultant

Tika is a Principal Consultant – Employee Experience for Qualtrics, supporting clients in designing and scaling employee experience programs. She has deep expertise in coaching leaders and organizations to lead change initiatives to significantly enhance the employee experience. A prosci certified change management practitioner, she has 10+ years of experience consulting with senior leaders of many Fortune 500 companies. Tika holds a Masters Degree in I/O Psychology from Claremont Graduate University and a Bachelors in Economics from DePauw University.

Yesenia Cancel // Associate Consultant - Employee Experience, Qualtrics

Yesenia is an Associate Consultant – Employee Experience for Qualtrics, supporting clients to develop customized, strategic employee listening programs designed to improve organizational outcomes. Yesenia has focused on survey design, analysis, and data storytelling throughout her career. Yesenia earned her MS in Industrial/Organizational Psychology from the University of Central Florida, and holds a B.S. in Psychology from Iowa State University.

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