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By: Ber Leary on October 6th, 2020

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Pulse Surveys Tell You How People Are Coping in the Pandemic


Covid-19 has pushed us all to our limits. Some people struggled to adapt to remote working; others had to balance work with home-schooling their kids. On top of that, there's the anxiety of witnessing a pandemic that has cost both jobs and, sadly, lives.

It's hard to focus and stay productive at times like this, which has a massive impact on employee engagement. According to the polling firm Gallup, average engagement levels in the U.S. soared to an all-time high in May, after the first wave of shelter-in-place orders. Just one month later, engagement had plummeted to an all-time low.

Most offices will have witnessed equally extreme fluctuations in productivity, collaboration and workplace happiness. Mental health and wellbeing has quickly escalated as a top concern.


With employee engagement and productivity highly volatile, leaders would be wise to keep a close eye on their team. For this, you need pulse surveys.

How to Conduct a Covid-19 Pulse Survey

Pulse surveys are short, focused questionnaires that give you a rough idea of how things are going. They're not as detailed as annual employee engagement surveys, so you won't get a precise picture of your team's current state. However, if you ask the right questions, you can identify emerging problems and take corrective action.

When conducting a pulse survey during the pandemic:

1) Use the right platform

Several digital survey platforms will allow you to create pulse surveys. These tools will allow you to set up your questionnaire in a few clicks, and employees can respond online. A good platform will offer real-time results and insightful visualization. One such platform is the Helios HR Employee Engagement Survey Tool, which mixes live data and historical trends into a single dashboard. Using a tool like this, you can easily see whether engagement levels are heading in the right direction.

2) Limit the number of questions

Surveys are always a trade-off between detail and engagement. Too few questions and you won't get enough useful data. Too many questions and people won't make it to the end. Pulse surveys should be fast and focused. Typically, you might include 10-15 questions in your survey. Respondents should be able to complete the whole thing in under 5 minutes, which will help maximize engagement. If you pick the right questions, the survey will provide sufficient detail.

3) Focus on what's changed during the pandemic
People are struggling to adjust to the pandemic’s knock-on. You can track the impact of these changes by asking questions like:
  • Do you feel safe in your work environment?
  • Has remote working affected your productivity?
  • Has your work-life balance improved?
  • Has the pandemic affected your sense of job security?
  • Do you feel your employer has responded well to coronavirus?
  • Has your workload increased recently?
  • Do you feel valued as an employee?
  • Does remote work make you feel disconnected from your colleagues?
  • Are you comfortable with new essential technologies, such as Zoom or cloud platforms?

If you're struggling to think of questions, reach out to your team and ask them what's on their mind. You'll soon see common themes, such as their thoughts about remote work, or their concerns about job security. You can then compile survey questions that focus on these themes in more detail.

How do you respond to a pulse survey?

In times like these, your pulse survey may produce some surprising results. If so–don't panic.

Employee engagement is highly volatile right now, but things will stabilize as we settle into the new normal. In the meantime, your people are looking to you for calm, level-headed leadership.

Here are a few steps to help get your team to weather the storm:

Listen and engage

The pandemic has created a great deal of uncertainty for everyone. It's also forced us apart from each other, which means teams can't support each other like they used to.

If employee engagement has taken a hit, then the first step is to try to rekindle team spirit. You do this by listening to people, validating their concerns, and collaborating on plans to move forward. Team meetings are more important than ever, as these give colleagues a chance to motivate each other.

Encourage and inform

Covid-19 has created deep uncertainty. Many people have lost their jobs, and your team might worry they are next. This fear can impact productivity and engagement, which is why leaders should try to encourage their teams as much as possible. Not only are most jobs safe, but some companies are poised to grow once the economy bounces back.

That said, people want to know the facts, even if the truth isn't quite so rosy. Tell the truth and establish yourself as a reliable source of information. If your people trust you, they're more likely to commit to the team effort.

Diagnose and resolve

The disruption of recent months has caused all manner of unforeseeable problems. For example, if your team suddenly switched to remote working, they probably faced issues like:

  • Slow broadband connections
  • Problems accessing cloud services
  • Communication breakdowns when dealing with other remote workers
  • Issues trying to balance commitments like childcare with working from home

Any of these problems can drag down employee engagement. This is time for leaders to act as trouble-shooters, so find whatever is slowing your people down and help them fix it.

Return to your values

People want to feel like their job matters, especially during a crisis like this. Unfortunately, the pandemic’s impact on work can sometimes have the opposite effect.

When people are doing mundane tasks from home, they're more likely to ask, why am I doing this? Who am I helping? If they don't know, they're likely to disengage. So, why are they doing their job? Who is your company helping?

The pandemic has given us all a once-in-a-generation opportunity to perform a cultural reset and think about who we really are. You can use this moment to start a company-wide conversation about your company's values and objectives. How do you live your values each day?

When people see how their work contributes to the mission, they will become more engaged than ever.

Taking employee engagement to the next level

Pulse surveys have always been a useful HR tool, even before the pandemic. They're a quick and easy way to give your team a voice, and they allow you to identify minor issues before they grow into big problems. They're also an excellent way to measure employee engagement, which greatly impacts productivity and retention.

If you're interested in the Helios HR Employee Engagement Survey Tool, or you'd like to talk to us about strengthening employee engagement, set up a no-obligation consultation call today.