Four key considerations for re-onboarding your people
As employees are welcomed back into offices, sites and stores across Australia – this time with greater hope of a future without major restrictions and lockdowns – businesses are now faced with one more significant ‘pivot’ to overcome.
How to ensure that their people are smoothly re-onboarded into the workplace and made to feel safe, secure and empowered.
For existing employees, this may be a particularly confronting time as they adapt to new ways of working. It could be months since they’ve entered the workplace, so just getting back into the rhythm of work could take some adjustment, especially if they are required to still work from home for periods of the week. And there’s now COVID safe plans and pro-tocols they need to understand and implement.
Having a clear and proactive path forward will be essential, particularly in responding to and managing a changing workforce.
Of course, this change will present challenges for owners, managers, leaders and their team. But if approached with collaboration, empathy and openness; it can also be a great time of opportunity for employers and workers alike.
So here are our four key considerations for re-onboarding your people.
1. Re-onboarding is different to starting new
Why do you need to re-onboard your existing team when they already know your com-pany’s systems and processes?
For many, this will be a time of uncertainty and caution (as well as excitement), so it’s important that part of the welcoming back process is to make employees feel comforta-ble in the work environment. A global study by Harvard Business Review found that 85% of workers felt their wellbeing had declined through the pandemic and 55% were not able to effectively balance their work and home lives. The lines between homelife and worklife have become blurred, so settling employees back into a workplace environ-ment with new COVID rules may take time.
Employers need to be prepared to retrain their team, whether that’s to reaffirm existing processes, educate on new ones to comply with COVID plans, or upskill those taking on new responsibilities due to shifts in business direction or leadership. Even aspects like redesigned shop layouts and office spaces will require adjusting for existing em-ployees.
It’s also likely there will be entirely new ways for workers to manage and record their work patterns and time due to the greater integration of flexible working arrangements.
All of these aspects need to be considered in an effective re-onboarding program.
2. Create a safe environment
As mentioned earlier, many employees are likely to feel apprehensive about returning to work, especially in light of COVID. So being sympathetic to this, and minimising as much risk as possible should be a priority for any HR and management team.
Here’s a number of key questions to consider to help create a safe working environ-ment:
- Do you have all of your COVID safe plans in place such as QR codes, social distanc-ing and mask rules, unwell stay home policy, and hand sanitiser stations?
- Do you need to apply mandatory vaccinations as a control measure to comply with your Work Health and Safety (WHS) laws?
- Are their upgrades to your workplace you can undertake to enhance COVID safe measures such as improving ventilation, creating break-out spaces, increasing clean-ing and maintenance
- How are you managing everyone’s return to work to meet density limits, such as im-plementing staggered shifts and remote working options?
- How are you managing third parties such as clients and suppliers entering the work-place?
It’s important to remember that this is new to everyone. Establishing clear lines of com-munication throughout all levels of your business, and involving your team in these decisions can go a long way to making people feel a greater sense of comfort returning to the workplace.
To help businesses prepare for workers return to work, the Federal Government has com-piled a list of helpful resources.
3. Hybrid is the new face of work
If you’re not using the term ‘hybrid’ in your workplace vernacular, chances are you soon will be.
According to a PwC report titled The Future of Work, 45 per cent of Australian workers say changing attitudes to remote working and benefits will transform the way people work over the next three to five years. Global leaders agree, with another PwC study re-vealing 75 per cent of business leaders believe increased flexibility will make the organisa-tion stronger over the long-term. And 50 per cent are planning to accelerate automation and new ways of working.
COVID-19 forced organisations throughout the world to throw out the rule book on the traditional way of working. What once was considered essential to hold face to face – meetings, workshops / events, interstate dealings –Is now handled remotely and even preferred in a lot of cases. Time lost through the daily commute meant time freed up to be put towards family, exercise and personal interests, or finishing off that last minute work task. Concerns over productivity and accountability that had held back business-es from moving to more flexible home/work options for their team were suddenly cast aside. There was no other option but to adapt.
The time of hybrid working has arrived and it’s here to stay, with almost three quarters of Australian workers wanting to work across multiple places and spaces. Organisations can either look for new and innovative ways to embrace this change or fall behind.
Technology will be critical. We’ve seen how video conferencing is now part of everyday business life, making the transition to remote working more achievable and accessible. In the same way, you need to empower your team with the tools to allow them to be productive and accountable no matter where they are working.
At Mitrefinch, our employees are spread throughout the world so we understand the importance of being able to effectively manage a hybrid workforce. Cloud-based solu-tions, such as our time and attendance software, enables workers to track their time easily online while providing managers with full visibility – whether working from home or in the workplace. Other essential tasks such as leave requests and scheduling can all be performed hassle-free from a desktop or smartphone. It also keeps those working re-motely on the road connected with the head office, providing them timely information to keep them on track and also the added comfort of knowing their work movements are monitored in case something goes wrong.
This aspect of monitoring the movements of people has become even more critical for businesses with the requirements for COVID contact tracing. Access control tools such as fobs, swipe cards and even biometric technology are all possible with the Mitrefinch time and attendance software, enabling employers to safely and securely control the flow of people through their various workplaces.
It’s another way of maximising the benefits of hybrid working through empowering em-ployers and employees to take control of how they work best – and feel supported and accountable at the same time.
4. Support health and wellbeing
In the 2020 Productivity Commission Priority Report into Mental Health, it was revealed al-most one in five Australians has experienced mental illness in a given year. Given these statistics, every business needs to be highly attuned to the health and wellbeing of their team, especially those who may only just be returning to the workplace.
Catching public transport again, being in close proximity to other workers, getting used to a store or office environment; these can all trigger different levels of anxiety. People who experience social anxiety are particularly vulnerable coming out of lockdowns. So how can managers best support their staff during and beyond the re-onboarding pro-cess?
Mental health research experts The Black Dog Institute has provided some helpful sug-gestions:
- Maintain regular catch-ups with your team: by being more in tune with your staff you are more likely to pick up those little changes that can indicate that someone’s having a hard time.
- Look out for signs of struggle: keep an eye out for changes in demeanour (body lan-guage) and output; when both are linked together it can be a warning sign.
- Set up regular 1:1 meetings with staff you’re concerned about: make sure you follow up if you get a sense that someone in the team needs support, and try to keep questions open-ended.
- Provide support both in and beyond the workplace: be responsive if staff reach out for support (granting leave/modified duties) and connect them to professional services.
- Keep an eye on your own mental health: in a leadership position it’s easy to focus on everyone else and not check in with your own feelings.
The health and wellbeing of every employee was important before COVID turned our world upside down. Now it is an absolute priority. And not just from a human perspec-tive. There’s also clear benefits for business, with the Productivity Report also revealing that for every dollar spent by businesses on successful mental health programs, organ-isations can expect a return on investment of between $1 and $4 for an average return of $2.30.
Re-onboarding your employees will definitely bring out conflicting emotions as people return back to work. It will be a time for excitement and optimism as well as uncertainty and anxiety.
But most of all it will be a time for change.
Facing this change in collaboration with your entire team, and planning out what this new working world looks like together, can only help to minimise challenges and maxim-ise opportunities – for your business and your people.