Blog Post

    Reboarding: Returning to work after absence

    The term ‘reboarding’ cemented its status in the HR vocabulary during the COVID19 pandemic when companies en-masse began to ask teams to return to office work, leaving their home set-ups behind. While some companies fell short of a coordinated approach and ended up with a chaotic return, others successfully used reboarding as a strategic tool to drive engagement and productivity.

    The concept of reboarding for returning employees isn’t limited to life-altering events such as a pandemic, though. Looking at the entire employee lifecycle, there are many moments where a reboarding-inspired approach can add value to both employees and the wider organization.

    The question is, how can we apply learnings from the COVID-19 return to work to other reboarding scenarios during an employee's tenure.

    Why reboarding matters

    First, let’s take a step back and explore why reboarding is one of the key employee transitions.

    Similar to onboarding, the main objective of a good reboarding process is to help employees navigate change and familiarise themselves with a new type of team, organization, or work context.

    While not everything will have changed after a period of leave, there are certainly things that will be different. That colleague who used to be a crucial partner in projects may have left the company. The team lead may have gotten a promotion, leaving the returning employee with a new manager. Or the company might have changed its strategic direction in the interim.

    All of these changes might seem small on the surface but can significantly impact the returning employee’s experience during reboarding. They will either improve or damage engagement, time-to-productivity, and retention.

    Reboarding gives your organization another chance at creating a memorable ‘day 1 experience’, setting your returning employee up for success. And just like with onboarding, this is a perfect opportunity for HR and managers to add value to the process and bring their employer brand to life.

    Types of reboarding

    Truth be told, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to reboarding. A period of absence, whether a short stint or a long-term scenario, will always be an important, impactful event for your team member.

    Generally speaking, there are 3 different factors that impact both what you can expect from a returning employee as well as the type of reboarding journey you can put in place to support your staff:

    1. Reason for absence
    Leave can be a planned sabbatical or a sudden illness, impacting an employee's emotional & physical capacity during absence and reintegration.

    2. Duration of absence
    The longer an employee is absent from your organization, the bigger the disconnect with the work, team, and culture is likely to be.

    3. Return capacity
    Whether a team member comes back full-time or follows a reintegration schedule builds the backbone of how you can support them best.


    4 typical reboarding scenarios

    While cause & duration of absence, as well as return capacity, make each period of absence unique, there are several typical scenarios that are likely to come up the longer an employee spends with your organization. We’ll touch on each of them below, so you fully understand what your employee is going through and how you can take action.


    Returning to work after parental leave

    When employees are on leave because they are becoming a parent, their life is going to change significantly. Usually, this is a planned leave that can be covered by other colleagues or with interim professionals. The duration of leave is often governed legally, so organizations can plan out work and projects in advance.

    1 action to get you started:
    Provide flexibility for your returning employee-now-parent to match their new life circumstance. Think hybrid working agreements and assess performance based on work produced, rather than hours spent.


    Returning to work after burn-out

    Reboarding employees returning from absence after burn-out is a crucial process, as more often than not at least part of the reason for absence lies within the work environment itself. Although this process is often guided by legal procedures and medical professionals, organizations play an important role in assessing job roles and team structures for the better.

    1 action to get you started:
    Encourage managers to check-in frequently and tailor the work to what the team member can accomplish, rather than what the job description says.


    Returning to work after a travel break

    When your staff have been absent from their role for a short to medium timeframe for a planned trip or sabbatical, the goal is to get them up-to-speed on organizational changes and back on top of whatever projects they were working on before their departure. A good reboarding process helps get their head back in the game and dust off their skillset, ready to hit the ground running on day 1.

    1 action to get you started:
    Facilitate a reverse handover from employees that took over projects during their absence.


    Returning to work after sick leave

    A good reboarding process for employees reintegrating after sick leave will place the highest priority on the emotional side of work and create comfort and confidence within the team. The longer the absence, the bigger the psychological distance between the employee and the job, and even the most normal habits of a typical work day might seem daunting at first. Depending on the specific reason for leave, physical limitations might impact how and what kind of work an employee can perform.

    1 action to get you started:
    Train managers on handling returning employees with empathy and emotional intelligence.


    Streamline reboarding with technology

    While reboarding takes a great deal of personalization, technology like Talmundo’s employee transition platform can take the heavy lifting out of your hands and ensure you’re giving every returning employee the resources and attention for a great re-start.


    Our team of specialists help leading organizations build impactful employee transition journeys - from preboarding to reboarding and beyond! Book a free 15-minute call to check up on your reboarding practices and your organization.

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    Topics: Featured , Reboarding
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