Reboarding refers to the practice of bringing back former employees who have been absent for an extended period of time. The idea is to modify onboarding for someone who is already familiar with your company but has been away. Because of the thousands of employees who have been brought back to work following a coronavirus-related leave of absence or an extended worksite closure, reboarding is trending right now.

Organizations all over the world are beginning to consider a return to work as we begin to collaboratively flatten the curve and move past the worst of COVID-19. This will, of course, vary by country and industry, but we’ll all eventually return to something resembling normal.

Reboarding is most commonly used for staff members who have been away from your organization for an extended period of time, whether for medical reasons, parental leave, or any other reason. It is intended to reacquaint your returning colleagues with your company goals, bring them up to speed on relevant changes, integrate them back into your workplace culture, and empower them to get back to being on top of their game.

Why is reboarding critical?

Reboarding is similar to starting a job from scratch; it is the extremely rare chance at redemption to make a great first impression. Consider it an opportunity to re-energize your employees and make it easier for them to be motivated and focussed on working for your business.

When your employees have been out of the office for an extended period of time, there is a massive learning curve to get them up to speed on organizational changes and back on top of whatever projects they were working on prior to their departure. A good reboarding process helps them get integrated faster and upgrade their skill set so they can be productive from day one.

Reboarding is also about psychological synchronization, especially in situations where your employees have gone through it emotionally and are in a vulnerable position. Effective reboarding will allow you to assess your employee’s mental and emotional well-being and help put safeguards and measures in place to ensure they feel cared for.

There are numerous steps that employers must take to ensure a successful reboarding process. Here are some examples:

  • Inform your employees about new virus-related safety measures and policies. For instance:

1)What are the organization’s personal protective equipment (PPE) requirements? Will they be optional or mandatory? What other services will the business have to offer to ensure employee wellbeing?

2)What are the protocols for interacting with coworkers? What are the procedures put in place when dealing with clients or vendors?

3)How many people are permitted in the workplace at one time or in any given space? Is there adequate social distancing between two workstations?

4)Are there any other social distancing rules in place?

5)Will temperature checks be required at every entry?

6)What would be the steps undertaken if an employee becomes ill?

7)What should employees do if they feel sick or need to cough or sneeze? What is the protocol to be followed?

  • Explain everything the organization has been working on in the interim, such as goals, objectives, new clients, new vendors, or product or process revamp.
  • If any other changes have been implemented in the meantime, provide training on these as well. Many organizations, for example, are using videoconferencing services much more than in the past, but employees who have only been with the organization for a few months may not know how to use them. Ensure they get adequate training on new communication tools being used.
  • If the passwords of any system or software logins were reset or closed, they must be reactivated.
  • If any benefits were canceled, they must be reinstated. When applicable, the organization must decide whether or not to implement standard waiting periods.
  • If there is a new policy on virtual communication, the specifics must be explained.
  • Communicate any new benefits that are available. If old benefits are no longer available, provide advice on this as well.
  • Communicate strategically about how soon other employees will be brought back onboard and whether all employees will eventually return.
  • Communicate any changes to an employee’s duties, position, role, or responsibilities within the organizational setup upon their return.

Other Factors to consider when reboarding employees following COVID-19

Another factor employers must consider right now is that the virus crisis has created a situation in which many people are suffering from mental health issues. People should be welcomed back with care. A few pointers:

  • Make sure communication is frequent and consistent, and consider things from the employees’ perspectives.
  • Be careful not to overwhelm them with too much data too soon. Handhold them so that they can ease into the system.
  • If you don’t already have one, think about adding benefits to address this issue, such as an employee recognition program.
  • Inform people about the mental health resources available through your healthcare benefits or wellness program, if applicable.
  • Keep in mind that employees returning from furlough may have lost the connect or even trust with the organization, especially if the situation did not affect every employee. Take adequate steps to regain the connect with the employees during the offboarding process.
  • Talk to employees who are returning about their needs in this situation. Be empathetic as try to assess the situation from the employee’s point of view.