As organizations start to shift from remote to hybrid, or fully back to the office, employees may be meeting some of their most integral team members for the first time, face-to-face. And even though these employees have been on the team for quite some time, they will inevitably face classic “first-day” experiences like wondering how to get to the office building, considering where to park, or even asking for directions to the conference room for their first meeting.

We believe it’s pivotal for employers to ensure that these team members feel supported and comfortable during this unique “first day” experience.

For managers looking to prepare for this next chapter, here are some ideas on how to strategically onboard and integrate remote employees, as your teams navigate the return to the office.

Set a Date in Advance

In order to ensure a smooth transition back into the office, set a date and clearly communicate in-person expectations to your team well in advance of the in-person workday. This will allow remote workers to ensure they’re in the area, as well as allow team members to arrange for childcare or other time sensitive errands, accordingly. 

Check-In with Your Team

Clearly communicate across your team and with various stakeholders to prepare for the transition:

  • Have one on ones, or group chats, with your remote employees to learn more about their concerns and curiosities about in-person workdays.
  • Chat with team members that have experienced in-person workdays and ask them what information they found useful in their early days on the team.
  • Provide each member of the team several opportunities to ask questions and discuss their challenges, as they prepare to head back into the office.
  • Connect with the office or facility manager to learn about any new protocols that have been put into place since the team was last in-person.
  • Ensure smooth integrations into accessing team-specific assets and systems in-office before the employee arrives at the office.

Use these takeaways to create an onboarding plan for integrating remote employees, and reacclimating the other team members, as well.

Create an Onboarding Guide

Go back to the basics and reacquaint your team with the office and what in-person workdays will look like. This packet can include:

  • Office address
  • Parking and building access instructions
  • Office layout and desk assignments
  • Schedule for first-day back
  • Current safety protocols
  • A guide to the neighborhood

Make it a Team Effort

Instead of letting the brunt of the in-person onboarding responsibility fall on the team lead or HR, consider getting the other members of the team involved with the integration process. Whether your new hires have been remote for a day or a year, here are some ideas to help them feel welcome and comfortable:

  • Connect peers from differing departments where possible, so that new hires can get a better idea of each department’s responsibilities and foster cross-collaboration as well.
  • Organize an in-person activity so that new employees can spend time with co-workers, under more casual and friendly circumstances.
  • Create a “Buddy Program” that pairs new hires with company “veterans.” 
  • Take the team building “offline” for a meal, coffee chat, drinks, or an activity.

Measure Success and Locate Gaps

As important as it is to create an organized process to account for each step of integration, it’s equally as important to track and measure its success and locate gaps where possible. Start by setting baseline metrics, so that both employee and employer can transparently measure their experiences. Then, create a system to communicate feedback that ties back to the organization’s key business goals.

Here are some suggested surveys to track success:

Be Flexible and Accommodating

There are many advantages that in-person workdays offer, which are difficult to replicate remotely, including certain methods of collaboration, peer-to-peer skill sharing, and inter-organizational networking. Ensure that the in-person workday allocates time for each of these activities to take place by not overpacking the workday with back-to-back meetings. 

Allow room to let teammates return to the office at their own pace, if possible. We’ve seen that teams are able to do a lot more than we ever thought possible in the remote world, and some employees may need the flexibility for longer before they’re comfortable to rejoin in person. Trust that they will continue to drive impact remotely.

Understanding challenges and concerns ahead of time can eliminate any issues relating to new hire integration before they even arise, and can help new employees ease into a hybrid or in-person environment with clear expectations. 

The Importance of Onboarding

Successful onboarding and integration always has and will be one of the most important drivers of employee success. Even before the pandemic, 90% of new hires decided whether or not they’ll stay at a job within 6 months, and studies show that companies that excelled at onboarding reported a 2.5x revenue increase on average.

Now that the hybrid work model is here to stay, companies can adapt their in-person or hybrid onboarding process to promote their culture, while setting their team up for lasting success.

If you’re looking for tools to support your hybrid or in-person workdays, connect with our team to see how we might be able to support your next meeting or event.