Tips for Reboarding Furloughed Staff

The year 2020 saw unprecedented staff cuts amongst corporations and businesses globally due to the volatile pandemic economic environment. Many staff were given a significant reduction of hours and pay for an extended period, while others were laid off permanently.

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As the economic landscape continues to shift, companies may decide to take on more staff again and recall their employees after extended time-off. So what’s important for reboarding staff?

Be Welcoming

Be sure to give returning employees a “welcome back” reception- whether that be with an email, personal message from the HR manager or direct line manager, or even a physical card at their desk. This will ensure that they will feel valued and acknowledge how they have been missed during this difficult time.

It is recommended that the returning employee be treated as a new employee in that any changes to their employment conditions and role should be communicated to them clearly and it should be detailed in writing in a form of an employment contract, similar to receiving a fresh offer of employment notice.

As many businesses are moving towards being fully operational again, employers will need to decide which staff to recall and why. It’s vital that these decisions be based on the staff members’ previous performance, not on personality, or because they suffered more than others due to the pandemic. Employers must remain impartial and fair in their decision-making so as to avoid resentment or being accused of inequality or favoritism among staff.

Empathy & Flexibility Go a Long Way

To streamline the process of re-integrating recalled staff, it is essential to adopt a comprehensive employee onboarding plan. The plan should include a redefinition of the staff members’ position goals, future training needs, and tasks to help them acclimatize to their new team.  This approach needs to be flexible as it can take people some time to return to work after a prolonged break. Management needs to be empathetic throughout this adjustment phase.

Focus on Team Building 

There may be some tension that could arise between staff returning to work after an extended break and those who have remained on duty throughout the pandemic. Management needs to nip that in the bud and focus on team building activities, ice breakers, encouraging open dialogues, and talking through any issues as they arise transparently. This will reduce friction between team members and help them to refocus on their job at hand rather than what happened in the past.

Show your Support

The pandemic has heightened anxiety for many people. Fears over their employment status and future along with fears of catching the virus are two of the most common sources of stress during this time. Employers need to be prepared to manage their returning workforce’s anxieties. Companies may offer workplace counseling through an Employee Assistance Program or adopt psychological first aid practices that employees can utilize. Line managers should offer an open-door policy and invite staff to approach when they are feeling anxious or distressed.

Onboarding with New Safety Protocols

Companies need to restructure their spaces so as to comply with public safety guidelines and to keep their staff members safe. These include social distancing, partitioning areas, disinfecting common areas more frequently, implementing frequent handwashing and sanitation stations, wearing masks, and staggering shifts to reducing overcrowding. The onboarding plan should include training on all these safety protocols.

Include a Backup Plan

Companies need to understand that not all workers who were laid off will accept an offer to return to work. To ensure that not all good talent is lost, management needs a backup plan such as engaging in new recruitment just in case. Many companies use an onboarding app that can support employee reintegration and organize everything related to the arrival of employees.

Managing the smooth transition of recalling laid-off employees after a prolonged break is a challenge for companies amid the volatile times of a pandemic. However, with the right attitude, understanding and onboarding plan, the process of reintegration can be simple without too many complications, and within no time, operations will be moving seamlessly again.

Interesting Related Article: “Does Team Building Really Improve Work Productivity?