At long last, after a long period of uncertainty living and working through the coronavirus pandemic, companies in many countries are welcoming back employees to the workplace.
While most employers are familiar with the terms preboarding, onboarding, and offboarding, which cover the entire employee lifecycle, reboarding is term that, historically, has been used in connection to employees returning to work after parental leave or long-term sick leave. However, today, reboarding more commonly refers to introducing employees back to the workplace and refamiliarizing them not only with their role but the company’s policies in a post-pandemic world.
However, it’s not as easy as simply opening the doors and getting back to business. Before welcoming employees back to the workplace, it’s essential that companies have a plan to reboard employees.
Work Is Not What It Used to Be
Although many employees are returning to the office, it won’t be like it was before. That is to say, few organizations are likely to return to the way things were pre-covid, where all employees were required to work from the office full-time. Instead, we will see many variations of hybrid working models.
Whether individuals work from the office two or three days a week or from home the majority of the time, we’re going to see many different ways of working. In our study of more than 58,000 employees throughout Europe, 59% of employees in Denmark, 49% in Germany, 46% in France, 45% in the Netherlands, 34% in the UK, and 30% in Sweden said they would like the opportunity to work from home more in the future. The large majority from all countries in the study say they would like to work from home somewhere between 40–60% of the time.
What’s more, 73% of French, 69% of German, 64% of Danish, 63% of Dutch,
57% of British, and 40% of Swedish respondents say that flexible working hours are extremely important when deciding whether or not to apply for a new job or stay with their current employer.
Before You Start Reboarding
While preparing to reintroduce employees back to the office, it’s essential that companies have defined their policies and guidelines. For example, is there a seating plan? What are the company’s policies around working-from-home? What are the rules regarding work equipment? Are there health guidelines that employees should be aware of, such as restricted numbers allowed in meeting rooms and lunchrooms? Do employees need to wear masks? Having the answers to these questions is essential before reboarding employees.
Another matter that employers should be prepared for is a possible clash of opinions amongst employees about the pandemic itself. As HR magazine shares, the pandemic has affected and challenged us all differently and everyone has an opinion on how things should be handled. This is why companies must be clear in communicating expectations and policies in the workplace.
One way to minimize the risk of employee conflict is to establish a counsel assigned to resolve disputes. What’s more, employees should know who or where they can turn to if they have any questions or concerns.
For many, there are mixed feelings about returning to the office, which employers should consider when putting together their policies. According to the American Psychological Association, nearly half of Americans (49%) say they feel uneasy about adjusting to in-person interaction once the pandemic ends and 46% say they do not feel comfortable going back to living life like they used to before the pandemic.
While many employees cite being scared that they’ll lose their work-life balance and other work-from-home privileges when returning to the office, others cite feeling anxious about returning to office life and socializing face-to-face after such a long period of restricted contact.
For many people, it will also be the first time that they meet their colleagues in person. But these “new” employees are not the only ones who will need time to adjust to changes. Having worked in isolation for so long, employers should be prepared for a period of adjustment, where employees adapt to sharing their workspace again.
Tips for Reboarding
1. First and foremost, when reboarding employees, employers must inform employees of the company’s policies, practices and procedures. Furthermore, employers should inform employees of the company’s road map, where the company is headed, and its stance on flexibility and remote working.
2. While it’s probably unnecessary to give returning employees a tour of the office unless, of course, your company moved premises, consider what you need to do to make working conditions optimal. Do desks need to be arranged to create a safe distance between colleagues? Do meeting rooms need to be modified to seat fewer people? Do hand sanitizing units need to be installed in bathrooms?
3. Reestablish and reinforce a sense of culture and unity. Ensure employees understand how they contribute to the company’s success. Here are more tips on how to build a positive workplace culture.
4. Ask employees what they need and want to make the transition smoother. Send regular surveys and questionaries that employees can answer anonymously. Through surveys, employers can gain valuable feedback and learn how employees feel, how they’re adapting to changes, what they believe is working well, and what can be improved.
5. Review your employee benefits. When we asked employees how strongly they agree that the benefits they are offered by their employer reflect the current situation, except in the Netherlands (34%), fewer than 20% in the UK, Denmark, Germany, Sweden, and France say they strongly agree. What benefits do your employees say they need and want? What benefits will support their well-being?
To see more results from our study and to help you prepare for tomorrow, be sure to download The Future of Work Report.