OHS Canada Magazine

2020 was tough. What will 2021 look like?

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October 19, 2020
By Gabriela Mancas

Health & Safety Human Resources 2021 COVID-19 Return-to-Work Survey

Use of surveys can help gain employee opinion on return to work

In preparation for 2021, employers should consider employee surveys, writes Gabriela Mancas. (Adobe Stock)

There are a few more weeks until the beginning of the new year 2021 and we wonder what it will look like.

What will happen next? How can we prepare for a new year and what can be done at work?

We were not prepared for what happened in 2020.

What has changed this year? Our perspective and how we react to change, how we work and build relationships and keep the old ones.

But let’s see how we can prepare for 2021. Many changes are taking place in the workplace and will probably continue to happen.


Returning to the office is a long process of readjusting to the new work environment and rules to ensure a safe place. Each employee will take a different amount of time to feel comfortable with the changes. Employers and employees must work together to ensure a safe return.

Consider employee surveys

Leaders should open surveys to gather information to help their employees. Helping your team members get through this period of uncertainty is one of the most important things.

Now, more than ever, this research method will have to be used.

Workplace leaders should be open to discussion, gathering opinions and analyzation to understand the challenging times employees are going through.

No one reacts the same way to this ongoing pandemic. Returning to work is a difficult and unique experience in the life of the employee and, as we move forward, we notice that we are not yet sure how the virus will evolve to affect our lives.

It would be a perfect time to ask employees what would help them get through this period and how the company can help them.

It is time to do surveys and put into practice what employees want to do.

Building a successful survey

In order to have accurate answers, surveys should be completed anonymously so employees feel comfortable to speak up freely.

Encouragement to participate in the survey should be emphasized through transparency of results and a follow-up of the measures implemented.

An online survey would be the easiest way for everyone to participate and it is practically usable for any type of business. The length of a survey could be discouraging but a maximum of 15 questions should be enough to cover the topic.

Using many open-ended questions in the survey will encourage the employee to share their ideas.

We are in the midst of a situation of uncertainty that could create difficulties in readjusting to the workplace, so a section should be included if a reminder is needed regarding the office, emergency exits and more.

It would also be good to add a section where the employee could express their opinion about what else would be needed in returning to the office.

A survey is successful if something is done after it to change every situation that needs to be improved.

Employer-employee collaboration

An employee who is understood today will help you reopen your business and ensure your prosperity. Most employees live with the stress of how to balance family life and work. Changes occur daily.

These will be useful to the human resources and wellness department for the preparation of programs to benefit the employees. Also, each idea must be considered for shaping the coming year.

2021 will probably continue to be a year of challenges, because we do not yet know how severe the impact of this situation is on our lives.

If there is collaboration between employers and employees, it is certain that we will be able to cope with anything.

Gabriela Mancas lives in Calgary, and holds a specialized diploma in occupational health and safety.


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