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Re-Onboarding Post-Pandemic

For more information regarding when and how companies plan to bring employees back to the office, structuring and leading hybrid workforces, vaccination trends and more, download our Office Re-Entry Index here

 

Between many companies working partially or fully remote for the last year+, trimming down staff as necessary, and pivoting business strategies to remain competitive in the new normal, employee’s roles and leadership strategies have evolved and adapted to what 2020 brought our way.  

With the New Year approaching and the hope of a widespread vaccine underway, now is the time to consider how your business and team will pivot again to meet what 2021 has in store. For the 62% of American workers operating remotely during the pandemic this may include a long-awaited reentry to the office.  

While many are eager to return to a sense of normalcy, it is important to acknowledge this will not be the case. Employees will be returning to a very different work environment as very different professionals and people than when they left. Bringing employees back to the office will be less like a homecoming and more like a re-onboarding. Leaders should begin to prepare now for what their reorientation process will look like for employees who worked full time from home throughout the pandemic, those who were furloughed and will be brought back, and those onboarded remotely.  

Below are 3 areas of re-onboarding that leaders should focus on in the year ahead.  

Cultural Re-Onboarding   

Consider how to reonboard employees back into the company culture. How do you get people excited about ditching their sweatpants, donning jeans or suits, and coming into the office again? How do you rebuild employee engagement? While teams likely collaborated virtually as a regular part of their work week, chances are employees did not communicate as much with coworkers outside their immediate circle. Recultivating community and helping employees root back down into the company culture will be important to making employees feel welcome and instilling loyalty in your workforce. 

As a part of the cultural reonboarding, remind employees who in the company to tap for support when needed, both formally and informally. This may include team members, management, the HR department, and others 

Consider implementing a mentorship program for employees as they go through their reonboarding to create conversation and connection between people from different teams or start an office newsletter to share important events that happen in employees’ lives. Also consider ways for teams to work cross functionally and collaborate on new initiatives together.  

Understand that company culture will likely feel different than it did before, and use this opportunity to strategically cultivate a better, stronger and more inclusive culture. Are there company philosophies or team creeds that need reinvigorating? New cultural norms you’d like to create? Employees will crave connection and want to feel supported by their peers more than ever. By reonboarding an entire workforce, leadership has the unique opportunity to determine how they want to evolve and strengthen their culture for the future of the company. 

Read more on how company culture will change here. 

 

Re-Onboarding to the Office 

While the office itself may or may not look different than when staff last worked there, months of working remotely and social distancing likely will change the office environment. Employees may have questions about what health policies and procedures put into place during the pandemic will remain, or what changes will be made post-vaccine. Remember, some will have differing preferences when it comes to personal space and anxieties may increase as they adjust to being in close quarters with others once again. Clear communication about what the requirements for returning to the office are and what will be expected of them will be important, for example, if employees will be required to get the COVID-19 vaccination before returning to the office or are expected to follow certain social distancing protocols. 

In the reonboarding, be sure to cover topics such as requirements for returning to the office, how layouts and cleaning measures may have changed, and what your expectations are for how employees use common spaces. This includes expectations for social distancing and how/where to hold meetings. Reintroducoffice norms that haven’t changed as well, such as certain expected courtesies or procedures. If blending virtual and in person workers, consider how this will impact standard office procedures and address both in-person and remote workers on what will be expected of them. 

As many employees have been secluded in their home workspace, normal office chatter or people walking past one another’s desks may now seem like, or even cause significant distraction. Whereas others who have had a full home or had to balance caring for children while working remotely may find solace in returning to a more structured office space. Reonboarding should address this so employees understand and have empathy for one another as they adjust in different ways. Educate employees on how to reach out for support if they struggle to adjust to work back in the office. 

Read more on helping create a welcoming atmosphere for employees here.  

 

Re-Onboarding to the Team 

As is the case with many organizations, your team may look very different than when last in the office and contain different people. Many companies did layoffs, moved employees around to different teams in order to meet company demand, or hired new people remotely. The nuances of team culture, even if your team is in frequent communication throughout the workweek, will need readapting.  

Whether or not the formal structure of your team has been changed, the informal structure or culture of the team has been disrupted and needs to be realigned. Don’t expect your team to go back to 'normal.’ Rather, help curate a new dynamic that is inclusive and plays to everyone’s strengths. Discuss both the short-term and long-term expectations of how your team will function and adapt to the many changes that have occurred and share team goals for the quarter and year ahead. 

Intentionally create opportunities for employees to work with others outside of their immediate team to help accelerate connection to the workplace community. Help new hires integrate into existing relationships by including them in a mentorship program or team building activities, as well as going out of the way to introduce them to members of other teams.  

Finding ways to help employees get reacclimated to group work in an office setting will be essential to retaining talent and keeping them engaged during a potentially challenging transition. Consider when and how your team will have regular meetings to touch base on projects and progress toward goals. 

 

Migrating whole workforces to remote work at the drop of a hat was incredibly challenging and took time to adjust. Acknowledge that bringing employees back may present just as much, or even more of a challenge. However, a well planned and executed reonboarding may contribute to a stronger and more successful workforce in the years to come.  

 

For more information regarding when and how companies plan to bring employees back to the office, structuring and leading hybrid workforces, vaccination trends and more, download our Office Re-Entry Index here.

Are you adding new members to your team? Let us help! Get connected here.  

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