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Re-boarding: Onboarding employees back after we come out of lockdown

Back to the Workplace.

@jontyson via Unsplash

Unleash Your Employee Experience As we come out of our lockdown bunkers, and the scenario of a vaccine within months is a very real possibility, how can we ensure a smooth re-boarding process?

  • How do we choose who to bring back, and when?
  • What considerations do we need to take about individual employees as they return to the office?
  • Why does your communication strategy isn’t a 100-page PDF and what are the alternatives?

Much like most of this year, re-boarding is something many of us have never heard of, let alone dealt with, before. Bringing employees on masse back to a “traditional” office environment after such a quick and blunt severing is strange and unchartered territory. Notably different to onboarding, where you are managing the experiences of new employees, re-boarding of furloughed or temporarily remote-workers requires its own strategy.

This could be the ‘clean slate’ moment your organization has needed to upend the non-existent employee experience and old incumbent culture, so don’t let it go to waste.

Our commutes come to question us in ways that can shift our values

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@vegasworld via Twenty20

It’s a Trap! Re-boarding does not look like a 100-page PDF.

Think creatively about tools to get your strategy and policies across to your employees – a great way to demonstrate your new ‘pizzazz’ as an employer. Would a podcast work so an employee can listen on their first commute back to the office? David Bisell, a Professor from the University of Melbourne notes in a recent article, “Our commutes come to question us in ways that can shift our values, make us rethink just what it is that matters to us, and allow us to re-evaluate what our work, relationships, and communities might mean to us.”

Take note of how and when to get your communication across to your employees: when they are most receptive to change and willing to work creatively with you on a ‘new beginning.’

Prioritize who to bring back, when

Make sure that the voice of your employees has been accounted for, first and foremost. Some employees may not be comfortable returning to an office environment for a number of reasons, and others may have demonstrated how productive they work from home and how they and you will reap the benefits if that continues. Surveying employees is paramount to get a clear picture of where to begin as to who wants to come back, who doesn’t and who should.

@vegasworld via Twenty20

It may fall to practicalities of who to bring back “safely” to. It would help if you determined who are your mission-critical employees. As PwC write, “Some roles, such as sales or relationship management that have historically been viewed as requiring face-to-face interaction may need to evolve given changing health guidelines and customer preferences.” “Other roles undeniably depend on onsite tools or technology and can’t be done effectively without them.” “An analysis of which roles transitioned smoothly to remote working and which didn’t can help inform decisions about when subsets of employees should be asked to return to the workplace. It may make sense to allow people in jobs with little drop-off in productivity to continue to work remotely for a period of time to reduce onsite headcount and lessen the risk to employee health.”

Safety & Wellbeing

Sure, we can almost guarantee that we will need to be planning for our employees’ physical safety on their return to the office. Still, we also need to note the mental impact this removal from the office has had on employees. For those that have potentially been in a heightened state of insecurity and anxiety about their job during the pandemic; to those that have potentially developed agoraphobia from the months of isolation; and others dealing with grief from an unexpected loss of a loved one – we’ve all got our stories to tell, and now, more than ever, we have a responsibility as an employer to own this for our employees as we re-board them into the workplace.

@gballgiggs via Twenty20

This could look like a new wellbeing chatbot or app, or perhaps an in-house counselor service. As a people manager, though, work this into your strategy from the offset and ensure that help and support are properly advertised and communicated throughout the organization. No one is immune to mental health issues and poor wellbeing.

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