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How to Craft Data-Driven COVID-19 Office Policies that Make Employees Feel Valued

How to Craft Data-Driven COVID-19 Office Policies that Make
Employees Feel Valued 1

As companies continue working through COVID-19, one common refrain is that everybody is confused about what to do. What can (or should) companies mandate? When? Are there exceptions to the rules? There’s a real sense of urgency around moving forward, but the risk is that companies will step on employees’ toes and face serious blowback. It’s a perfect storm, and the best solution is to lean on an old ally: data.

Feedback Closed Gaps Before, and it Can Do So Now

Even before COVID-19, leaders often faced gaps between what they thought employees or customers needed or wanted and what management perceived as good or necessary. The way companies discovered and closed these gaps was by using data to look objectively at their processes and environment.

Now, surveys and similar strategies can help you understand what your team thinks, wants or fears about COVID-19. For instance, you can ask them whether they feel comfortable coming back to work and, if so, for how many days per week. You can ask what equipment they prefer to take with them from the office to use at home or whether they have any concerns about vaccinations.

Collecting this type of data doesn’t mean you’re automatically going to give people everything they want. But it ensures that you craft your policies with consideration for your team and that your decisions are not completely based on your own feelings. It also communicates to your team that you are willing to hear them out, which helps them feel valued. That reduces the risk that people will be surprised or react negatively to what you decide to do. In other words, such steps improve the employee experience.

How to Collect and Use Your Data

One of the first things to keep in mind when collecting data to build COVID-19 policies is that it’s ok to do exploratory surveys. You may not even realize something is an issue until you’ve prodded a little, so use initial feedback to identify the right direction for crafting future communications.

Second, communication should not be a one-off. Keep people updated and ask follow-up questions. When you craft your final policy, be sensitive with your phrasing, explain your choices, and give people a chance to respond so they continue to feel heard.

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With these points in mind, think carefully about how you want to get your feedback. In most cases, surveys are the easiest and most convenient way to get answers. Be sure to design your surveys in a way that doesn’t allow biases to creep in. Questions shouldn’t be leading, for example. Your data collection method should be accessible to everyone regardless of role, department, tenure or working location.

Once you have your feedback, balance that employee experience data with your operational data. For example, your survey might reveal that most people want to come to the office and don’t want to wear masks, but data from your health agency might show that cases are rising and that cases are lower in areas where people wear masks consistently. So remember that your team might not automatically have the same amount of information you do. Be as honest and transparent as possible about all the facts on your plate even as you respect necessary confidentialities, and be clear that you are taking everything into consideration. This includes confronting disinformation, misinformation and myths surrounding the virus.

In many instances, it’s best to make recommendations with incentives rather than issuing mandates, and to empower workers to make their own informed decisions. For instance, rather than requiring vaccination, you could present statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, explain that your survey showed that most people are in favor of shots, and then give people paid time off to get vaccinated. The key, regardless of what’s in your policy, is to use your insights to figure out how to communicate and keep listening and adjusting over time as the situation evolves.

Whatever Your Policy Ends Up Stating, Just Make Sure You Have One

Ultimately, there is no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to COVID-19 policies. But having a clear policy that is based on both the voice of your team and objective facts can offer your workers the sense of direction they need to feel more secure and supported through the crisis.

Engage with your team, find out where they stand and set a customized course. The sooner everyone knows where to go and what the boundaries are, the sooner your business can enjoy real progress.

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