Effective employee wellbeing survey questions

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Written by Peter Wilde

HR has long been focused on employee wellbeing, with the pandemic accelerating this trend. There’s a growing realisation of the link between positive wellbeing and positive business outcomes – 78% of organisations around the world believe that ensuring the wellbeing of employees is one of the drivers of organisational performance, according to Deloitte. Our previous blog looked at the different dimensions of wellbeing and outlined six best practise ways to improve your wellbeing strategy.

 

In this blog we’re going to look in more detail at how you can practically listen to your people and ensure that your approach is delivering the right support to every employee and meeting their individual needs.

It is important to understand that collecting feedback from employees around wellbeing delivers two linked insights:

1.    It allows you to monitor the wellbeing of individuals and then take action to support them

2.    It allows you to understand how your overall employee wellbeing programme is working, so you can take action to improve its effectiveness

Your feedback programme should cover both aims, but they are best addressed through separate surveys, carried out with different frequencies. You want to be asking employees about their personal wellbeing more often than you survey them about the wider wellbeing programme, where making evidence-based changes and improvements will clearly take longer.

To ask effective wellbeing questions in your surveys you need to focus on six key areas:

 

1. Treat everyone as an individual

There is no “one sizes fits all” approach to employee wellbeing. Everyone has different levels of mental, physical, emotional, and financial wellbeing and they will change regularly. So don’t make assumptions but base your approach on listening to each employee through regular check-in surveys. Use a mix of open and closed questions and provide opportunities for them to give comments, while respecting and protecting their personal information.

Example questions include:

 

  • I know what is expected of me at work (agree/disagree on a five point Likert scale)
  • I am able to manage my time effectively (agree/disagree on a five point Likert scale)
  • What more could we do to support your wellbeing at work? (open question)

2. Listen as frequently as possible

With wellbeing levels fluctuating you must listen regularly – relying on an annual employee engagement survey or performance review will not pick up changes quickly enough. Particularly in today’s fast-moving, ever-shifting world it is difficult to predict the future and major issues (such as illness or financial issues) can quickly appear from out of the blue. You need to understand your employees, their wellbeing at work, stress levels, and any health issues that may impact their mental and physical health.

Surveys don’t have to be long – as a rule of thumb the more often you collect feedback, the shorter the survey itself should be. You can run weekly check-ins where you ask just a couple of questions to take the pulse of your people.

Also make sure you run surveys at particularly stressful times – such as around the move back to the office or the adoption of home or hybrid working. Do your employees feel confident about these changes?

Example questions include:

 

  • How was your week? (response on a five point Likert scale)
  • What wellbeing improvements would you like to see? (open question)

3. Go deeper to find root causes

When looking at the factors that impact wellbeing across your organisation start with the bigger picture and then drill down. That means running larger surveys first and then following up with a subset of employees, using their responses as a starting point to get to the bottom of an issue. This could be through a second survey, a focus group, or a face-to-face meeting, depending on the sensitivity of the topic.

For example, if feedback on the work environment is that it is contributing to poor physical wellbeing and damaging the employee experience a team could be set up to collect more evidence and look at ways of making positive changes.

Example initial questions include:

 

  • I have access to the equipment and systems I need to work effectively (agree/disagree on a five point Likert scale)
  • My employer is doing enough to support my health and wellbeing (agree/disagree on a five point Likert scale)

4. Use the right language

Every survey you carry out should aim to be engaging and clear. You don’t want employees to misunderstand a question and consequently give an answer that doesn’t provide useful data. This is particularly true of employee wellbeing surveys, given the sensitivity and personal nature of the questions. Ensure your language is open and supportive without being seen as challenging or patronising.

Build up to more emotionally involved wellbeing questions or ask them in non-judgemental ways. Start with easier questions, asked in accessible ways.

Example questions include:

 

  • How has your week been? rather than How are you feeling?
  • I am able to manage my time effectively (agree/disagree on a five point Likert scale)

5. Focus on effective questions

Wellbeing questionnaires, as with all feedback should balance length with usefulness and avoid survey fatigue. Try and ask the minimum number of questions to build a picture, rather than putting employees off with long and complex surveys that are time-consuming to complete. Ensure you have a good balance of closed and open questions – asking for ideas and feedback is vital to understanding what employees want and how current practises can be transformed.

Think about the following categories for your surveys:

 

  • Mindset – does the employee feel trusted and know what is expected of them?
  • Support and collaboration – does the employee have the equipment, training, and environment to deliver at their best?
  • Care – does the employee feel that their line manager/employer cares and supports their overall wellbeing? Do they have a positive work life balance?
  • Feedback on the current wellbeing programme/ideas for improvement

As well as the sample questions in this blog, there are many survey template resources you can visit to gain inspiration for your questions, including:

 

6. Go beyond surveys

Collecting and acting on feedback through employee wellness surveys should be just part of your wellbeing strategy. What is vital to improving employee wellbeing is to normalise discussions about the subject and make them a central part of an open, supportive culture. For example,

 

  • Mental health charity MIND recommends building in “temperature checks” (regular one-to-ones and open dialogue) into the organisation’s culture.
  • The NHS People Plan asks that all employees have a health and wellbeing conversation, normally with their line manager and is helped to develop a personalised wellbeing plan.

As with every feedback exercise simply listening is not enough – you need to act on the insights and then communicate the results and changes you have made to your people. This will improve the overall experience, boost employee engagement, and encourage greater participation in wellbeing programmes and benefit both businesses and employees.