Welcome to the Prepare for returning to the workplace survey template

The Prepare for returning to the workplace survey template helps your organization plan an effective transition back to the workplace. Gather feedback on employee concerns, preferences, and needs. This article provides an overview of the survey template and guidance on implementation.

The survey template is openly available for use by both Culture Amp customers and non-customers. If you are a customer, you can locate the template in the template library. Everyone else can access the survey template questions here

NOTE: Account Admins and Survey Creators can launch the survey under Surveys > Create survey > COVID-19 pandemic response surveys > Prepare for returning to the workplace survey



Organizations that have switched a significant proportion of their employees to working remotely, will eventually need to consider how to effectively transition their employees back to the workplace. In addition, COVID-19 has resulted in entirely new ways of working and there is an appetite to understand what the ‘new normal’ could look like. 

This survey can help you understand how your people are feeling, what concerns they may have about returning to the workplace and help guide what an effective return plan might look like. The survey can help you answer the following questions; 

  • Does additional support need to be put in place for employees still juggling caregiver responsibilities?
  • How safe do employees feel about returning to the workplace and what safety measures can help alleviate their concerns?
  • What is the appetite to continue working remotely and do employees feel this will be effective for them and their team?

When is it best to launch this survey? 

This survey is intended to go out to employees before the transition back to the workplace begins, and where possible should be launched before the COVID-19 restrictions are lifted. This will enable you to collect feedback and data to help inform your return to work strategy, and put measures in place early to help support employees as they transition back to the workplace. 

While the survey is intended to inform a return to work plan, it’s important not to launch it too early. Ideally it should be launched when you are ready to start weighing up return to work options and making decisions - if launched too early, COVID-19 guidance and information may change, altering employees' attitudes. 

Survey questions 

The survey has been developed by the People Science team in collaboration with several global Culture Amp customers who are currently undergoing the transition back to the workplace themselves. This ensured we covered the topics that are most top of mind for leaders and HR at this time. 

While many of the Culture Amp survey templates focus on the organization (i.e. evaluating what the organization has done) the Return to the workplace questions focus on the individual and their own feelings and experiences. This is so the organization can take action and create a tailored approach based on how their employees are feeling. 

The survey consists of 29 questions on the following topics:

  • Overall Return Readiness
  • Support
  • Wellbeing
  • Safety
  • Remote working
  • Concerns

Understanding employee sentiment across each of these areas can help inform not only what a return to work plan might look like, and key concerns which may need to be addressed, but also whether ongoing/standard policies should be reviewed (for example, moving towards more flexible working). 

The ‘Return Readiness’ outcome index

Much like our usual engagement surveys, the Return to the workplace survey has an outcome measure; in this case ‘Return Readiness’ (learn more about outcome measures here). In the same way that you can’t just make someone feel more engaged, you can’t make an employee feel safe and ready to return to the workplace - you need to understand what things are impacting on that experience, and what levers you can pull to make them feel more ready. 

If using the template within the Culture Amp platform, Impact Analysis will show which questions are having the biggest impact on the Return Readiness outcome measure, and help you prioritize where to focus your efforts or tailor your return to work strategy. 

Key considerations

Should I include free text questions in the survey?

Yes! Comments are extremely useful and we would recommend including at least one free text question in the survey. This will allow employees to share their views and provide useful insight that may not already be captured in the other survey questions. If you ask just one question to employees, we’d recommend the following:

‘What can ACME do to support you as you make the transition back to the workplace?’

In the Culture Amp platform, comments can also be left against each individual question allowing you to focus on what ideas employees are suggesting and what challenges they are facing. This will help you understand why employees respond in the way they do. 

Should I use self-report demographics?

Self-report demographics are a helpful way to understand the nuanced experiences of your employees. During COVID-19 we’ve seen demographics such as ‘Caregiver responsibilities’ and ‘Living status’ become much more important and provide a useful lens when trying to understand the employee experience and how this may differ across our employee population during this time. 

There are demographics that will be particularly important to consider when thinking about a return to work strategy. For example, will a large proportion of your workforce still be trying to juggle childcare responsibilities when the office re-opens? Or will employees who previously commuted by public transport now feel safer driving, meaning on-site car parking spaces will need to be reviewed? We have automatically included a set of demographic questions in our template for you to review. Here is more information on these suggested self-reported demographics to help you understand your workforce in light of transitioning back to the workplace:



What it can help you identify

What is your living status?

Living alone

Living with family

Living with other people

With employees having spent significant time at home, are those who have been living alone more keen to get back to the office? Or are those living with families now eager to interact with others and resume more boundaries in their home and work life?

Where are you currently living?

In usual residence

In other residence (same state/county)

In other residence (different state/county)

In other residence (abroad)

Before the COVID-19 restrictions were enforced, employees may have left their usual residence to stay somewhere else. Employees could now be in other states or even countries that prevent them from easily traveling and returning to the workplace in line with when the office reopens

What are your caregiving responsibilities?

Children (part- or full-time)

Other adults

Children and other adults

No caregiving responsibilities

Many employees will still be juggling caregiving responsibilities while transitioning back to work, particularly if schools do not reopen in line with offices

Are there any travel restrictions in place that could prevent you from returning to the workplace from your current residence? 

Yes - legal restrictions 

Yes - public transport restrictions



While offices start to reopen, travel restrictions may continue to be in place in some areas. Will employees be able to travel to the workplace from their current location?

How do you usually travel to work?





Public Transport


Travel will be a concern for many, particularly those that rely on public transport to get into the workplace. Are employees now planning to use other modes of transport and if so, is the organization set up to accommodate this?

How do you plan to travel to work once the COVID-19 restrictions are lifted?

Prior to COVID-19 did you work remotely?




For many employees, the COVID-19 pandemic is the first time they have worked remote - understanding their experience and whether there’s an appetite to continue will be key in return to work planning

Are you a people manager?



Managers are going to play a crucial role in helping their employees return back to the workplace - they’ll be a vital source of support and play an important role in making the transition a success


As always, with any sensitive demographics or questions, consult with your legal team if you have any queries around what is appropriate to include in your context 

Can I incorporate some of the COVID-19 Response items into my Prepare for returning to the workplace survey? 

We know lots of organizations have utilized our COVID-19 Response or Emergency response survey templates during the pandemic, choosing to run either one-off surveys or more regular pulses. For many, there is value in combining the response survey with the return to work survey; either because of time constraints or not wanting to send an additional survey out to employees.  

If you do decide to combine both templates, we’d recommend keeping the response items and the return to work items as discrete sections in the survey since they are framed in different ways. The response items ask employees about the current situation and are more focused on the organization, while the return to work items are future-focused and ask about the individual's own feelings and experiences.

Setting up clear survey sections, and including subheadings is a great way to help signpost employees to the different topics and ensure they understand what is being asked. 

What if I work for a global company and some regions have already returned to work?

While the survey is designed to collect feedback from employees before they return, we know that for many large organizations their offices will not open in tandem. At the time of writing, in Asia many employees have already made the transition back into the workplace while in the US, states are lifting restrictions at different paces.  

If you are a global organization, surveying some employees with the Return to the workplace survey and not others could send a signal that certain regions or offices don’t matter as much. Where possible, we’d recommend surveying the entire employee population - even if that means tweaking the questions you are asking to employees who have already started to return to the workplace. We'd suggest amending the Return to work questions into past looking items; so asking how those things were at the time they returned rather than how they expect them to be in the future.  There may be aspects you can still improve upon using that information. 

What if I have employees who have still been working onsite during COVID-19 restrictions? 

We understand that some organizations were able to keep part of their workforce onsite during the COVID-19 restrictions and it will be important to gather feedback from that population too. Employees that were able to continue working onsite may feel apprehensive about other colleagues starting to return, and they may have unique concerns and perspectives. Questions from the survey can be tweaked to align with their differing experience, and some useful items to ask include:

  • I am feeling energized about my colleagues returning to the workplace
  • I would like my company to implement more safety measures as colleagues return to the workplace
  • I would feel comfortable raising concerns as my colleagues transition back to the workplace 

What are the MOST  important questions I should ask? 

If running the full Return to the workplace survey isn’t feasible, we’d recommend asking a few key questions to help you understand sentiment across the core topic areas:

  • Return Readiness (Outcome) - I am confident I can make an effective transition back to the workplace
  • Support - I am able to manage any caring responsibilities while transitioning back to work (e.g. child care, looking after dependents)
  • Wellbeing - I feel confident that any changes to my personal circumstances will not impact my ability to do my job effectively
  • Safety - I would like my company to implement more safety measures as we return to work (If so, please tell us what safety measures you would like to see)
  • Remote Working - I believe I can do my work as effectively remote as in the workplace 
  • Free Text - What can my company do to support you as you make the transition back to work? 

These questions, coupled with some of the self-reported demographics mentioned above can help give a high-level overview of employees’ sentiment towards returning to the workplace and where to focus efforts. 

How to know how you're doing

Learn more about our COVID-19 combined benchmark here.

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