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Reboarding: How to Successfully Bring a Team Back Post COVID-19

Isidora Markovic
Isidora Markovic

Reboarding defined

What is reboarding? Put simply, it’s the act of reintroducing employees back into the workplace after a period of absence. 

Historically, it’s been used in reference to parental leave, secondments, or periods of prolonged sickness, and the subsequent necessity to make sure individuals are able to fully reintegrate into their roles smoothly and successfully.

But in a post-pandemic world, ‘reboarding’ has come to bear a new, more universal relevance. Furloughed employees are being brought back to teams, employees’ hours are being ramped back up from part to full-time, workplaces are reopening, and remote office workers are returning to physical spaces. 

Why should I reboard employees?

The aim of employee reboarding

During lockdown, peoples’ pace of life has fundamentally changed. They’ve gone from a busy daily movement across vast swathes of sprawling cities, to being tied to one physical location - or even, one room - for months on end.

The boundaries between their work and leisure time may have dissipated when there is no daily ritual that demarcates the start of work from the end of work (leaving a house or office, getting in a car, boarding a train, walking, driving, biking). Any interaction with colleagues will have been sporadic and virtual. 

By now we are all familiar with ‘Zoom fatigue’ - a mental exhaustion derived from overuse of video calling softwares. This fatigue incurred from non-stop barrage of video calls feeds into a larger fatigue and psychological stress brought on by a situation of indefinite remote work (or in the case of furloughed employees - no work).

Employee wellbeing plays a pivotal role in reboarding - how do you make sure employees are motivated, focused, and in a positive mental headspace?

Successful reboarding will:

  • Motivate, impassion and improve productivity amongst employees

  • Reinforce a sense of community, camaraderie and strengthen emotional ties (to the organisation, and to each other)

  • Realign people with your vision, mission, values and culture

  • Make people feel comfortable, considered and safe

In essence, it’s an opportunity to get your people as fired up and empowered to perform at their very best as they would have been on their first day.

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How do I reboard effectively? 

Employee experience lies at the heart of successful reboarding. As employee experience is ongoing in nature - each new day of work being an opportunity to set the tone - it can never be adequately catered to by a one-off event, like an induction day.

Nor would you want it to be - it’s important reboarding information is drip fed so as not to overwhelm. This is not just because information is better retained when presented concisely, but our current context is one of heightened mental stress. 

So much like first-time onboarding, successful reboarding must extend beyond peoples’ first day back.

How do I reach employees?

Any reboarding efforts will be undermined if the information contained within is not seamlessly reaching its target audience.

To execute reboarding successfully, you’ll need to first have the right remote learning tool on your side. A good mobile learning solution is one that enables you to inform, engage and upskill employees in a way that’s:

  1. Accessible. Meet employees where they already are (smartphones), in a way they are used to accessing information in their 5-9 leisure time (via apps) for maximum impact. Smartphones outnumber PCs 2.5x and we check them every 12 minutes.

  2. To the point. The average human attention span is now just 8 seconds. To hold employees’ attention, information should be delivered in short, concise bursts.

Your reboarding learning material also needs to be presented in an engaging manner (think: videos less than 1 minute long, followed by a multiple choice quiz) to ensure that knowledge is not just landing, but sticking - i.e. being retained

Once you have a remote learning tool in place to effectively propagate information, use it to:

1. Practice empathy

Societally, we are still feeling the aftershocks of a global pandemic. Everyone is on different parts of their own COVID-19 induced emotional rollercoaster and whether at the peak or trough, will be feeling compromised in some way.

Some employees may be grieving, others may have anxieties about their health, others may be feeling alienated after being furloughed, or simply from a period of prolonged remote work. 

The secret to delivering a world class employee experience is empathy. Showing empathy has a huge impact on employee productivity and loyalty - 77% of employees would be willing to work longer hours for an empathetic employer, and 90% said employers who recognize the importance of mental health were more likely to retain them.

So take time to consider how things are being communicated - are you showing that you listen, understand, acknowledge and recognize your employees? Always try to put yourself in your peoples’ shoes. 

2. Communicate your plan of action

This training material should be centred around practical information that relates to your company’s return to work. 

How and when are people returning to work? Be transparent, set clear expectations, make key dates and information known. Anticipate what people might ask, and include it. 

Some generic questions you might like to address in this lesson could be:

  • How do you plan to reopen safely? 

  • When are people expected to return to work?

  • What does this return look like?

  • Is it full-time or part-time? 

  • Will your approach be staggered?

  • What is the new policy on working from home/remote work?

  • If people are anxious, can they opt to continue working at home full-time, for a period?

3. Address any changes 

COVID-19 uprooted then restructured the way we work. No feather has been left unruffled - every aspect of the world of work has felt the impact of this upheaval. 

Make known to employees exactly how COVID-19 has ‘rewired’ your company. Some things to address in this lesson could be:

  • Have there been changes to workplace safety measures and requirements?

  • Have worksites been reconfigured?

  • Will the remote work experience be improved? E.g. Does the company plan to invest in equipment like ergonomic stations, so that remote work is better accommodated for.

  • Will shifts be changed or crews alternated to uphold social distancing?

  • Are there new HR initiatives or policies?  

  • Are there, or will there be, new ways of working or an acceleration in automation? 

  • Are there new softwares you’re using, that furloughed employees may have missed being upskilled in?

  • Are there softwares you have discontinued use of?

  • Will there be a ramped up recruitment effort (or conversely - a downsizing)? 

  • Will real estate footprint be reduced?

  • Will there be hazard pay for on-site workers in affected areas?

  • Are there changes to sick policy?

  • Have you set up new ways of serving customers?

4. Re-familiarize people with your vision, mission and code of ethics

COVID-19 marked a swift pivot to crisis communications and management for many organizations. It is likely that your vision (overarching aspiration) and mission (how the vision will be achieved), has gone overlooked for some time, as companies have been preoccupied with more pressing things, sometimes their survival. 

Resultantly, people have grown accustomed to perceiving things in a short-term manner, with little consideration for that which comes beyond the immediate. Help refocus their perspective to the long-term too - your vision and mission should run as an undercurrent, underpinning everything you do.

Create a refresher remote training course to ensure your people are unified, aligned and working together to a common goal. Try posing, and answering, some of the following:

  • What is your company’s identity and values?

  • What’s your purpose?

  • What problem are you seeking to solve?

  • What are your stakeholder (employee, customer, investor, shareholder) commitments? 

  • What are the long and short-term strategic goals?

  • Has any of the above changed? If so - what to?

  • How can employees endeavour to uphold this daily?

Having a remote training module like this will help people feel part of something again - an integral piece of your organization’s puzzle. It will also reinstall a feeling of purpose among your people, who may be feeling uncertain about the future, derailed or directionless. Your mission and vision are your anchor.

Motivation is a key ingredient in achieving Workforce Success - the supercharging of the whole based on empowerment of the individuals, and 37% of employees are motivated by strong corporate values, mission and purpose.

5. Upskill on new health and safety measures

COVID-19 has changed the way people navigate workspaces forever. Employees are understandably anxious and will be looking to you to safely guide them through this new world.  

CFOs may feel very confident about their ability to provide safe environments for customers (79%) and employees (74%), but this is at odds with what employees feel - just 47% say safety measures will make them more comfortable returning to the office.

Quell these anxieties in the information you send out. Make sure to disperse learning materials on what your new health and safety MO is. As a minimum, address things like:

  • Is personal protective equipment (PPE) - e.g. masks - required? 

  • Are social distancing measures in place?

  • Where can PPE be acquired?

  • For office workers, what measures are being taken to sanitise the space? 

  • For on-demand workers, do contractors need to be conducting no-contact deliveries? If so, what is the associated best practice?

  • How can employees or contractors work to keep their own spaces or belongings clean? Will cleaning products be provided? How can they be accessed?

  • For on-demand workers, what is best practice for cleaning cars, delivery bags or uniforms?

  • What should employees do if they need to cough or sneeze?

  • What is the etiquette for interacting with customers or clients? Are there safety measures in place - if so, what are these?

  • Will there be workforce location tracking or contact tracing occurring?

6. Plan for the future

To improve the performance and cohesion of your workforce, it is worth reflecting on what did or didn’t work well in your organisation before COVID-19, and then, what did or didn’t work well during COVID-19. 

You don’t have to deliberate over this as an individual, or limit discussion to HR teams. Another stream of input that should be enthusiastically capitalised on, is that of your workforce. What do they think did or didn’t work, pre and during COVID-19? 

Send out a short pulse survey to gather sentiment and gain insight. This has the added benefit of improved employer-employee relations. People appreciate being given a platform, so much so that feeling ‘heard’ can improve performance by 4.6x.

Collate these insights and reflections, and from them you’ll be able to glean how you can combine the best of both experiences, to optimise company operations going forward and best support your vision. 

Ultimately, a successful reboarding effort is one in which your people are logistically and emotionally set up for their return to work, whatever that return may resemble. 

If you'd like to see how you can use eduMe's mobile-first remote learning platform to deliver the perfect reboarding training to your employees, contractors, freelancers or clients… 👇

Get a Demo of eduMe

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