With updated COVID-19 workplace guidelines in place, many organizations are in the process of going back to business, implementing office safety protocols to safely reopen within the next few weeks. 

Some organizations have opted to continue having employees work remotely, either indefinitely or until the end of the year. 

Related reading: COVID-19 Workplace Guidelines: What You Need to Know Before Reopening

Most organizations, however, have opted for a hybrid return-to-work model, where only a limited number of employees are in the physical workspace at one time. Now, employees who switched to remote work several months ago must be reboarded and helped to adapt to the new normal at the office. 

Read on to learn a handful of workplace strategies for employee reboarding, including how to help your employees embrace change quicker and return to maximum productivity as soon as possible. 

What is employee reboarding, and what’s it meant to do? 

Typically, reboarding is the process of reacquainting a returning employee with your organization, highlighting any relevant company changes that took place during their absence, e.g. new management, updated policies, different systems. The purpose of reboarding is to return that sense of familiarity to an employee so they can feel a part of your company culture again and “remember” their role and contributions. 

Employee reboarding under the lens of COVID-19, however, is very different. Instead of reboarding one or a few employees, you’re reboarding most or all of your employees at the same time, which possibly means less one-on-one time and a strain on your resources. 

The goal of reboarding has changed too. Reboarded employees must adapt to the new hybrid work model, where only some of their coworkers are in the office at one time and social distancing protocols must continue to be observed. Concurrently, employees are also attempting to return to their productivity levels before COVID-19 and a semblance of “business as usual”. 

In short, employee reboarding is about the employee experience: helping your employees emotionally reconnect with the work. 

Communication: The new watchword of your organization 

Keeping your employees safe and informed is one of the most critical aspects of your reboarding strategy. 

Most of your communication will likely come from managers, so it’s important to give them the resources and support they need to be comfortable with delivering workplace updates and answering any feedback or concerns from their direct reports. 

Make your content digestible (quick bites of information) rather than relying on lengthy PDFs to help your employees grasp the nuances of your new health and hygiene protocols. 

Consider creating a workplace policies FAQ document as well. It can be something as simple as a Google Doc with view-only permissions that you can share with all employees. In this document, include contact details for your HR team or your internal communications manager so your employees can have a direct line if they have any questions about the new policies or need additional clarification that their manager isn’t able to provide. 

Set up an office schedule on Google Calendar, Outlook Calendar or similar software to give employees clarity and visibility into who is in the office on which days. Departments can also have their own calendars with more granular details. 

If you have the resources, also consider creating a blog for your CEO or President, where employees can go for the latest updates about the organization and refer back to past messages. 

Facilitate a sense of connection between employees 

A hybrid workplace model means that teams are likely to be “blended”, that is to say not everyone on the team will be in the office at the same time—including the manager or team lead. 

It’s important to empower your leaders to continue fostering a sense of connection between employees on their team. Virtual lunches, coffee chats or informal catch-ups over video can also help bring the team together, no matter if they’re working in the office or at home. 

Employees who work the same “shift” as the manager might gain an (unintentional) advantage when it comes to the manager’s time, so it’s important that managers have a rotating schedule that gives them the same amount of face-time with all of their direct reports. 

Measure your employee reboarding with pulse surveys  

Pulse surveys are short, informative surveys with actionable results, meaning that the questions you ask help you understand if and where you can improve. Essentially, you’re taking the “pulse” of your company and employees. 

Related reading: Employee Pulse Surveys: Why They Are Crucial to Your Workplace

For example, if you want to know if you’re being transparent and clear in your communications, a couple of pulse survey questions could be: “Do you feel you have enough insight into our company decisions?” and “How informed do you feel about what’s going on currently in our company?”  

Pulse surveys are designed to be fast and frequent, to be sent out once a week or every couple of weeks. Aim for five or fewer questions and try to keep each survey focused on one topic to generate more accurate and honest responses. 

Keep employees’ psychological safety in mind too 

The physical health of your employees is very important. 

Their psychological health is too. 

Related reading: Providing a Mental Health and Wellness Friendly Workplace

In a recent survey (between April 24 and May 11, 2020) of approximately 46,000 Canadians, Statistics Canada found that “almost one quarter of the crowdsource participants (24%) reported fair or poor mental health”, a sharp increase from the 8% reported last year. 52% of all respondents also said their mental health has worsened since the onset of physical distancing. 

Encourage the use of group benefits to help employees who might struggle with anxiety or stress. Most therapy is available in person or virtually through TeleHealth to suit all comfort levels. 

The Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) also has a wealth of workplace mental health resources available. 

 

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