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Consider Reboarding Your “Crew” by Amler Associates

Onboarding and preboarding are commonly known practices used for acclimating new hires and preparing them to start work, but are you familiar with reboarding? With the Covid-19 pandemic having caused a major disruption in the workplace, now is the time to consider reboarding, not unlike “pressing the reset button” for employees, but if only it were that simple! Certainly, there will be many new challenges to address and questions to answer, a good deal of anxiety involved, and in some cases, a reestablishment of trust will be necessary. Yet how can we expect even our best managers to navigate the issues–let alone poorly equipped ones–as your crew reboards the (perhaps remodeled) ship? Here are some helpful tips I have used successfully during crises that can help; perhaps think of them as an updated GPS of sorts, to guide you in these murky, unchartered waters.

Consider new company guidelines:

  • Before communicating anything to anyone, have your most trusted managers and senior staff discuss a broad general outline of what is acceptable flexibility for your staff. For example, based on daycare or other family needs, are you willing to allow employees to work from home until they can find suitable arrangements?
  • Provide contacts for counselors, either through your insurance plans or through other contacts, who can help employees having trouble adjusting. The New York State Office of Mental Health Emotional Support Helpline 1-844-863-9314 provides free and confidential support, helping callers experiencing increased anxiety due to the coronavirus emergency. The helpline is staffed by volunteers, including mental health professionals, who have received training in crisis counseling. For general questions about
  • Covid-19, the CDC website is a good resource and can be found using this link: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV/
  • Consider role-playing discussion with managers to ensure consistent communication of messages throughout the company.
  • Make sure everyone in the management group understands the policy regarding excused absences. Flexibility is one thing; consistency and fairness is another.
  • Discuss the potential for a company town hall meeting; depending on company size, this most likely would be spread over a few days to be compliant with current safety protocol for group gatherings.
  • Discuss the state of the business and address concerns about healthy guidelines to follow such as: feeling ill/stay home policy, taking temps, PPE, social distancing, areas off-limits such as lunch/break rooms, water cooler, etc., and be sure to answer questions honestly and transparently. It’s okay to say, “We don’t know yet–we’re working on it.”
  • Ensure that managers are ready to speak to their employees one-on-one about their roles (or expanded roles, as the case may be) if there have been furloughs or layoffs. If a manager is not ready or able, the next level manager needs to handle this. The goal is to understand the individual issues that might reveal themselves to be prevalent within the department.
  • Managers should be caring and provide encouragement at this difficult time. Without prying, they should aim to understand a bit of what is going on in the employee’s life and should be ready to provide support if needed. Past issues with performance should not be addressed right now. If recognition is deserved, now would be a great time to provide it.

 

FAQs

Do these changes need to be formally stated as company policy?

We recognize that many changes will be needed in the employee handbooks, but that is still work in progress at this point. Keep in mind that legal teams and HR consulting practices are developing working on filling the gaps with needed updates. However, while having these changes finalized and in print is not critical to begin reboarding, be sure everyone knows their new roles and responsibilities at this time and any changes are clear. Better yet, put them in writing to lessen the chance of confusion or conflict.

 

What if employees are hesitant to return to work?

If you sense or know for sure that an employee is hesitant or upset about returning, have that counselor contact information ready to give out, as well as the NY State Mental Health helpline (if applicable) and the CDC website link. Based on the guidelines developed by your office, offer the flexibility agreed to by ownership. For example, in some cases, employers are offering a ramp-up time for employees to return. The first week they could return just for one day, the second week for two days, and so on, while they continue to work from home on the other days. We find this to be a viable solution that also helps to resolve childcare issues that may exist. This is just one small way for managers to build up the employee’s trust and confidence in them during reengagement. Of course, be sure to know what the guidelines are before offering accommodations so that the office is fair and consistent in its handling of such situations.

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Certainly, these are unprecedented times, and everyone will handle

            returning to the workplace differently. Amler Associates is here to help you with all aspects of reboarding, or any other HR issue you are currently facing. We look forward to hearing from you and hope you, your families, and your employees stay well as we all try to get through this together. Thank you!

 

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