Deep Thoughts

Thoughts on employee reboarding post COVID-19

A popular phrase I’m hearing at the moment is reboarding.

For those not in the know, reboarding is the process of re-introducing people back to the workplace after the disrupted environment caused by COVID-19.

This is going to be high on the agenda for all workplaces and in particular HR teams. After such a long period of disruption, uncertainty and a lot of fear. We’ll all need an adaptation period and a plan to help us get settled and look to navigate whatever the world will look like.

Business leaders and HR teams will be essential in this phase of reboarding. This is a time to lead people in continued strange and unknown times. The health of people, businesses and productivity could very well depend on the delivery of a strong reboarding programme.

I see a strong reboarding process as 5 parts.

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Space to process emotions

We’ve all felt the effects of this strange time in some way. Whether it has been through first hand experience with contracting the virus, losing loved ones or dealing with the experience of lockdown. We’ve all had a seperate and collective human experience which may change some of us forever.

There will be psychological after effects from this time no doubt. Fear, worry and uncertainty will not disappear that easily. This is why my first point would be to recommend space is given for everyone to process their emotions.

I imagine the first few months of a post lockdown life will continue to be a strange experience for all. We need to let ourselves feel whatever it is we feel for the situation and process the experience and it’s ongoing movements as we return to a form of normality.

I believe it’s essential from the get go that people are given the room they need to process everything they need to and for businesses to give people that space where they can work through it. As not regulating our emotions will lead to prolonged bouts of feeling demotivated, distracted and ultimately stop people performing at their best.  

Focusing on the enormity of the possible 

As we know, the ride has been rough for us all over the last 3 months. Whatever people experience it’s safe to say that motivation, enthusiasm and focus will be extremely low.

It will be the job of leaders and HR teams to re-engage people with the workplace and showcase the potential that each of has going forward. I imagine that the experiences we’ve all gone through will make some people more determined than ever, whereas others might be feeling flat and just need a touch of reignited hope once again.

I always say to people that the work I do in the learning industry is all about enabling people to believe in the enormity of the possible. This is something we will now need to do for all people now more than ever. To help them keep looking forward, find hope, focus and start to see once more, the possibilities that lay before all of us in this re-shaped world.

Navigating a new world

For better or worse, this pandemic has changed the workplace and how we navigate life forever.

Pandora’s box has been ripped wide open and I don’t think we’ll be able to shut it again.

Offices have been emptied, travel has been non-existent and everyone has been forced into the remote first digital world. Something that was once considered all but impossible by many corporate workplaces and a dream for many workers has now been made a forced reality.

Many of us have been working remotely for several months. Our mindsets will have changed, the daily experience has most certainly changed and I don’t think nor do I personally believe that we should go back to the way it was. 

Obviously, there are pros and cons to the way we have been working. However, now is the time to build a new way of working that supports the majority. Workplaces have been forced into an overnight digital transformation. The experiment has been done, the data is there for us all to see. So, how will we navigate this new world?

It’s not just the digital transformation in which people will need help. It’s also the way we behave going forward. There will be a psychological impact in how we interact with each other, especially if some form of restrictions continue in the post-lockdown world.

Many of us have spent months hiding from others and running away from fellow humans we see in the outside world in case we catch something. We’ll all have a job in re-programming these new behaviours and re-engaging with society.

Re-engagement with workplace culture 

Another big task for all workplaces.

I imagine many businesses will be chomping at the bit to refocus their people and speed back to productivity as quickly as possible. It would be great if this happened overnight just as the forced digital transformation did but we all know this won’t be the case.

To get the best out of people, we’ll all need to be re-engaged with our workplace culture. It’s surprising how quickly we forget even the simplest of things when we’ve not been in the same daily environment.

They’ll be a lot of work for leaders, managers and HR teams to re-invigorate the culture. An essential early doors task will be connecting people and culture together once more. It’s a good time to remind people why xx is a great place to work, how we support each other and what the road looks like as we work towards our strategic goals in this new world.

Looking to the future

I feel like all of us want to do anything but live in the moment right now. 

I’ve touched upon this in all my points so far and really for this one, it’s all about giving each of us something positive to look ahead to. Whether this is focusing on our career development, evolving current skills, trying something new or just being back in the world and seeing other people.

Looking ahead and helping each of us see that no matter what we’ve gone through there is always a future, will be a great enabler in helping all of us move on and living life once more.

TL:DR (Too long, didn’t read)

For HR teams, reboarding is an opportunity to support, enable, engage, empower and be a leader in the new look world. Relationships and trust will need to be re-built, as will psychological safety.

For leaders and managers, be compassionate, encourage, support, re-engage and focus your teams to make them even better than before.

Look after your people and they will look after you.

What you can do

Simply, have a plan. Just like when you onboard and welcome new starters to your workplace, so must you take the same approach as your people return to work.

Reconnect, re-engage and work through this time together.

These are just a few of my thoughts. I would love to hear and learn from yours too. Please share with me in the comments below.

You might also like

The live recorded talk I gave to the Virtual College L&D roundtable on this topic and how to build your own reboarding plan.

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