Summer vacations are fast becoming a distant memory and year-end deadlines are closing in. Not to mention the line-up of big league holidays just around the corner. No doubt, this is a stressful time of year for all of us. And while most of your HR energy is probably going into ensuring Open Enrollment is a success for your employees, it’s also a good time to step back and check in on how your workforce is really feeling right now. Cue the work-life survey.
Here, we review the five fundamentals of creating and conducting a work-life survey that works.
- Define your purpose, set your goals
Every good survey starts with a good plan. Draft a one-page overview of the purpose of your survey, its content and focus, what goals you’d like to meet (and if they connect with larger, strategic HR or business objectives), plus to whom, when and how you’ll administer it.
- Select your technology
Online survey tools like and SurveyMonkey and SurveyGizmo are easy-to-use and comprehensive in capability for both SMBs and enterprise solutions. But this PC Mag.com side-by-side gives a good overview of all the major online survey players. Pulse surveys like Officevibe, TINYpulse and POPin are also gaining in popularity to engage employees quickly with just one or a few questions. Use them to get an “in the moment” read on mood, satisfaction and productivity.
- Design for what you need
Are you looking at evaluating utilization and effectiveness of current health, wellness or care benefits and policies? Gauging interest in new ones? Trying to improve organizational processes for better managing workloads? Working to lower stress and burn out? Focus on one area of work-life, a few, or go for the big picture and ask it all. Just keep sections concise, and questions simple and to the point.
After collecting the necessary demographics from your participants (ex.: gender, age, dept., role, tenure), here are some of the essential sections of a comprehensive work-life survey:
- Current state of work-life being
Is it in conflict, balance, or on the path to integration? This section should gauge individual employee obligations and stress levels, and the impact it’s having at work and home.
- Satisfaction with employer work-life programs
Employees rate your current work-life programs and provide input as what their employer can do better.
How far do employees’ live, how long does it take them to get to work, and what can you do to change policy around work day start and finish times?
- Family care responsibilities
Understand employees' current and anticipated care needs for children, aging, ill or disabled loved ones - near and far. What matters most about care (cost, location, quality, etc.). How are current care benefits meeting caregiving needs – or not? Interest in new programs?
- Alternative or flexible work policies
Measure awareness of current policies re: leave, PTO, P/T arrangements or flexible hours, or interest in instituting new policies.
Employees report how much they work on average - daily and weekly. Working through lunch, after dinner, on vacation or over holidays? Do employees feel supported by managers in prioritizing projects?
- Wellness – physically, mentally, emotionally and socially
How often do employees take breaks at work, do they try to decompress (meditation, walks, work-outs, social time) and when? You can also look for interest in wearables, corporate initiatives and individual incentives in this section.
- Current state of work-life being
- Do some pre-distribution QA
In addition to taking the survey yourself, consider running your survey by marketing and other key internal stakeholders for their input. “Outsiders” can give you great perspective on readability (are you speaking in plain English, not HR), length and relevance, and potential bias or misunderstanding. Give them a checklist of questions: is it clear why this survey matters and what could happen as a result? Plus, make sure you've noted how long it should take, and how thankful your department is for taking the time to respond. HubSpot has some great tips for getting more survey respondents, as well as a helpful infographic about creating successful surveys - go old school and print it out for your office wall.
- Share what matters
Your survey results will be integral to shaping HR decisions and work-life program selection, but they'll also be valuable to others within your organization. In addition to leadership and other key decision makers, be sure to share appropriate sections with the managers at your organization. Their role in the work-life equation is key. Plus, consider openly publishing results (anonymously and where appropriate) and sharing with participating employees. The transparency - and plan of action in response - will go far.
Many would argue the work-life puzzle has never been harder. Yet, we have more options today than ever before to help right the course. Be it through health and wellness initiatives, care benefits, paid leave or flexible work policies. Additionally, the cultivation of more supportive company cultures can make an enormous impact. Alongside feedback gathered in town hall-style meetings, interest and advisory groups, and one-on-ones at time of transition, use regular surveying to help chart the right work-life path for your organization.
HR Leaders Also Read:
- Workplace Stress Busters: 12 Uncommon Holidays to Celebrate in Q4
- The Cost of Care: Highlights from 2017 Survey Results
- Keep the Love Alive: Managing Stress Before it Impacts Performance
- What You Need to Know From the Leading Work-Life Research Centers (in 5 min or less)
- Why Millennial Moms Struggle With Work-Life Balance