This post was written by our Director of Behavioural Learning and Head of Perform Division, Roger Ayres.
Have you noticed how a whole new set of behaviours has built up around the pandemic? From frantic online waving and excessive nodding, to new vocabulary, with the ever present ‘you’re on mute’ or ‘can you see my slides’? One word I have noticed recently which is really worth paying attention to is ‘reboarding’.
Think of it as similar to onboarding or induction but instead it’s the process of acclimatising people to a new routine when they return to the workplace post lockdown.
For some people, forced hibernation has been taxing and they will relish the idea of getting back into a busy schedule and separating work from home. Others will find it difficult to adjust and feel anxious about returning after so long away. Many will feel a mix of emotions and as a manager of people it’s important to take your responsibilities seriously when it comes to helping teams adjust, so everyone can start to perform at their best, as soon as possible.
On a personal level, lockdown for me has had its positives, particularly having more time at home. But I bet I am not alone when I say that at times I have definitely felt:
- Less productive
- Less in control
- Less connected
We are all different, so there isn’t going to be a ‘one size fits all’ solution to reboarding or a best practice blueprint to follow. Here are some hints and suggestions to get you thinking.
First of all, it’s important to listen, make time and show patience while a new rhythm is established. Most people will appreciate honesty, frankness and compassion – lots have been through a lot personally as well as professionally.
There will be those who will require coaxing out of their huddle. They may not initially relish the idea of returning to a communal workplace. They will need to be shown sensitivity to help them reconnect with their colleagues.
- Allow time for re-integration, beyond the allocation of tasks – social connection is an important part of reconnecting.
- Be clear about expectations and about any shifts in roles and responsibilities, especially if there are changes in the structure of the team.
- Check in with people early and often (even those who don’t appear to need help)
- Drip feed information.
- Try to turn the clock back to pre-pandemic. Things have changed, so look forward rather than back.
- Bombard people with too much information.
- Assume people think and react like you.
- Apply too much pressure – be flexible if possible because you may not realise what an individual is coping with beyond work.
Also don’t expect miracles straightaway. Teams may feel and react differently to before and may have inadvertently fractured. There could be a feeling of ‘it’s not how it used to be’, including some initial disappointment. But also bear in mind that reboarding can be an opportunity to build deeper connections through shared experiences and greater teamwork will stem from this.
As a manager you can help by allowing team members to tell their stories (both positive and challenging) to help them build an empathetic connection. Some may want to continue with flexible working arrangements, as they may have additional commitments or have simply enjoyed working from home. The important thing is to talk to them, so you can understand their wishes and accommodate their needs where this is possible. But also be clear and consistent on your expectations and provide collaborative challenges so they can achieve success as a team.
Finally, don’t forget that you also have your own needs, hopes and fears. Try to be open and human in your approach, including about how things have affected you as well. You should look to reconnect with your ‘why’, your purpose – what you like about your work, what drives you and your ambitions. Bear in mind that you too may need time to readjust but if you get this right, you and your team will be stronger.
Roger Ayres is Director of Behavioural Learning and heads up our Perform training division. He has been coaching and developing training for 24 years for emerging managers through to board level executives. To find out more about one-to-one and small group support available, including virtual options, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.