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Back to Office: Do you need a re-onboarding plan as you re-open?

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Walking into the office on Day One has always been a little scary. New spaces, new faces, new roles, and responsibilities always brought on a mix of excitement and anticipation in new hires.

Then came 2020, the pandemic, and a whole new way of working. New employees only met their new colleagues, (with sometimes slightly pixelated faces) in little windows on their screens, from the comfort and safety of their own home.

And now, after almost two years of working remotely, employees are being asked to comeback to the office.

But what does this really entail? Will they be able to adjust to their office timings, cubicles, culture, and more importantly, to wearing pants again?

As the furniture gets dusted off, returning employees are mentally preparing for a nerve-racking Day One 2.0. Preparing to meet and greet people, learn new protocols, and find their groove in the ‘new normal.

But no one has to be as prepared for ‘the great return’ as HR managers and company leadership.

A solid re-onboarding plan is an absolute must-have and can have a far-reaching impact on the well-being and peace of mind of your employees.

Here are some of the top reasons you need a re-onboarding plan, as employees start heading back to the office.

1. (Re) Imagine Employee Experience

Given that the entire world of work as we know it, from office spaces to off-sites is being reimagined, it’s time to do the same for EX as well!

When the world turned topsy-turvy, most companies had to scramble to put in place remote working strategies that were flexible by design - an idea that had been left on the back-burner until then.Understandably, one of the biggest lessons from the pandemic for businesses has been to put the needs of the employee at the center of every policy decision.

Employee experience, which is basically the sum of all the interactions an employee has with the company, should be aimed at making employees feel motivated, excited, and innovative at work. This means making sure they have the most optimal interaction at every possible touchpoint, should be your top priority.

At a time when coming back to the office is likely to be fraught with confusion and fear, setting the right tone with a good re-onboarding plan can go a long way. By establishing how you want your EX to be, you can make this transition relatively smooth and painless and demonstrate your company’s commitment to putting your employees’ needs first.  

2. (Re) Fresh Company Culture


They say, good EX is propped up by three pillars - Culture, Technology and Workspace. Zoom calls, virtual hangouts, email introductions, and pajamas have been pretty much what has passed off for work culture over the past year and a half. But now as employees are heading back into the office, it’s time to bring culture back!

If you’re like most companies, you’ve probably had to overhaul your policies, values, and culture in the last 18 months. So, the culture that your new hires first experienced when they came on board was a WIP version. An important part of your re-onboarding plan is to remind, reiterate and cement your company culture – the first pillar of your EX.

After months of limited social, human contact, employees will need a little help readjusting to the office environment. Re-onboarding can serve as a reminder of what the company stands for and give all new and returning employees a chance to get on the same page and revive your culture when they walk in the door again.

3. (Re) Introduce Employees to Their Workspace


Space and Technology are the other two pillars of your EX. With new colleagues, updated technology, and stringent safety protocols, the office your employees left in March 2020 is probably going to look very different from the one they are coming back to in 2021.

But it is very important for them to feel comfortable, happy, and productive in the office. The physical workspace is an important pillar of the overall employee experience, which is a top priority for most HR managers and leaders in current times.

By preparing your new employees beforehand for what they can expect – e.g., sanitized common spaces or periodic temperature checks – you will be creating a sense of familiarity with the office before DayOne 2.0. This will help them feel more confident and in control of their day.Furthermore, re-onboarding is a good time for you to answer some of the most frequently and commonly asked questions so that employees are not scrambling toHR for every query. A well informed employee is a calm and happy employee.

4. (Re) Create a Sense of Belonging


New employees who were hired in 2020 have probably never met their colleagues offline, despite working with them for months in some cases.

For returning employees as well, it’s a huge adjustment as they try to re-establish the same camaraderie they shared with their colleagues before offices shut their doors.

With so many social and professional permutations in the mix, Day One 2.0 is quite likely to be a challenging day for all employees and many of them could struggle with forming personal connections and communicating well with their peers and managers.

A good re-onboarding plan which includes preplanned meetings and catchups or a basic list of to-dos for everyone, such as ‘Check in with IT by Friday’ or ‘Pick up your Immunity gift kit from reception when you get in’ will help prepare your employees for what to expect.We all want to know that someone cares for us and has gone the extra mile to help us settle in.

And the fact that high belonging has been linked to a whopping 56% increase in job performance, a 50% drop in turnover risk, and a 75%reduction in sick days is a rather compelling argument to focus on creating a sense of belonging for all your employees.

5. (Re) Engage With Your Employees


A recent study by Oracle and Workplace Intelligence found that ‘The COVID-19 pandemic has created the most stressful work year in people’s lives, negatively affecting the mental health of 78% of the global workforce.’

No surprises there.

Added to this is the stress of coming back to the office, adjusting to new protocols, making new friends at work and/ or reconnecting with old ones and trying to find their feet after more than a year of social isolation.

Just as the offices that they are returning to have changed, so have your employees. After more than a year of feeling disconnected, from their lives, loved ones, and often the Wi-Fi, your employees need to feel connected with their work and workplaces.

You need to re-engage with your employees to understand their needs, fears, limitations, and expectations, when they comeback to the office and a re-onboarding plan may be just the opening you need.  

A re-onboarding plan that accounts for time devoted to conversations, discussions, and feedback will allow you to re-engage with your employees. Check in often, and if you can get feedback contextually, then even better – e.g., ‘What did you think of your Immunity kit?’. This will provide you with a wealth of information and insights, that can help make your business future ready.

Ultimately, a re-onboarding process is just as important as your onboarding experience. It shows them that you genuinely care about their well-being and happiness and have taken concrete steps to make their transition as smooth as possible.

And employees that feel valued and cared for, are more likely to stay loyal to the employer and give their best at work everyday.


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