As offices across the U.S. are preparing to re-open, in full or partial capacity, many organizations are grappling with how to make a smooth transition ‘back.’ But what does that look like? Readiness checklists, cleaning protocols, and safety guidelines, no matter how clear and well researched, just won’t be enough to help with the human side of reboarding. How can leaders help employees feel safe, connected to the mission, and engaged?
In recent weeks, anticipating these questions surrounding the transition back to the workplace, I started a collaboration with my client, Patty Starr from Health Action Council and Amy Swanson. We reached out to a group of individuals who have experienced significant life transitions or who have lived through disruptive life events—to see what they could share with us about what helped or hindered them, and what supported them as they transitioned out of the crisis period. For example, we talked with Andrew who was at the epicenter of the SARS outbreak in 2003, and Assem who was a child in Beirut during the Lebanese Civil War (1975-1990). Their reflections and stories were powerful and insightful. We then worked to translate the lessons learned to today’s workplace—to help leaders looking to build a reboarding plan.
Five Core Tactics
Our findings are presented in an article entitled Reboarding: Learning from the Past to Prepare for the Future and a related webinar, where we shared additional stories and insights that didn’t make the editor’s cut.
We identified five core tactics that are key to a successful reboarding plan that puts people first. These are:
Check out the article for the full write-up.
Communicate, Connect, and Co-create
As we shared the five tactics in the webinar, the audience was most curious to hear more about the third tactic, “Communicate, connect, and co-create.” In our interviews, we heard about the importance of communication in each person’s story. We were reminded of a best practice that all good leaders know: Communicate immediately, frequently, and consistently. And another one: Don’t cancel your one-on-one meetings with staff!
We were also reminded to avoid making assumptions or jumping to conclusions in the face of panic. How does communication help? We need to reach out and talk—and listen—to hear what is top of mind for others, and then develop shared goals. Goals that fit the new normal. Goals that we are all invested in. Here are some highlights from the discussion on communication:
As I shared in the article and webinar, across all the interviews, the resounding theme was resilience. So many of the people we interviewed reflected on the COVID-19 crisis and said, “It’s gonna be okay” or “We’ll get through this.” Perhaps it was the perspective of knowing that the pandemic is not their "first big" crisis. Perhaps they are drawing on their resilience reserves. The words they shared are words I’ve heard in so many other contexts in my life, but they have a particular significance to me now, coming from this group of strong people I admire.