With the return to the office after a long period of remote work for many employees, it is important to consider how this is managed, as it is not as simple as turning on the lights and having everyone return to their desks.
This is supported by a global study by Cushman & Wakefield of more than 50,000 employees who found that working from home during a health crisis created a sense of isolation that weakened human connections and social bonds as well as disrupted connectivity to an employer’s culture and mission. It was found that younger-generation employees were affected greater by this changed dynamic.
For many companies, their employees have for up to two years experienced a different way of doing their job. They have had less company, team and client contact creating isolation and a disconnect between the company and their team members. For many, returning to the office comes with social and emotional concerns around their health in the workplace, relationships with their team members, as well as retaining the flexibility that they gained while working remotely.
This is manageable when it is one or two people but when it is an entire office settling back to a full office or hybrid work model this will not be easy for everyone. This may result in a drop in morale, reduced productivity and loss of your best employees. This is where reboarding comes into play as a critical step in ensuring that your employees' return to work is a positive outcome for them and your business.
If done well reboarding can result in your employees returning to the office motivated, focused and feeling supported. However, if they feel they have just been dumped back to where they were prior to COVID the opposite is likely to occur.
Reboarding is not about the telling but all about the listening. That is, asking how your employees are feeling, what is worrying them, what are they looking for, and what now works best for them.
It is also about being proactive in responding to their physical and social needs. It is likely that the old office set up is no longer workable requiring improved ventilation, more space between workspaces, changes to meeting rooms and staff rooms etc. There will also be an expectation around providing opportunities to engage with old team members and meeting new team members ‘face to face’ for the first time. Restoring camaraderie, communication and a new sense of community is critical as is the strengthening of ties to the business.
Your employees will have new expectations around the culture that you will need to consider too. They will be likely seeking a balance between office and working remotely, as well as a supported work environment that provides flexibility around work-life balance. In reboarding they will be asking the questions and expecting their managers to have listened, and to have the answers.
Maybe your employees have already returned to the office? Maybe you are starting to see signs of a disconnect? No matter the stage you are at, it’s not too late to consider how reboarding can be used to address the health and productivity of your most important people in this new workplace of the future.
Here are some key initial steps to consider in reboarding:
Focus on social connection and foster trust
Tackle health and safety concerns head-on, and then, check and recheck
Introduce new systems and procedures that address the new work ‘norm’ for all