Reboarding: A gradual return-to-work plan to ensure an easy transition


Reboarding employees is a relatively new concept, yet it refers to a highly relevant process which is gaining popularity for a good reason. 

Throughout your working life there could be multiple instances of absence from and returning to work. Some absences will be due to your own will or control, such as parental leave or taking time off to complete additional training or education. Others will be beyond anyone’s control, particularly in cases of injury or sick leave (physical or mental diseases – burnout episodes), bereavement etc. 

After 45 days of leave, the chance of ever getting back to work is 50%; after 70 days, the chance of ever getting back to work drops to 35%. Most strikingly, after 2 years with a leave of absence, one is more likely to die rather than return to work, according to attendance management software provider Honeydew.

An employee onboarding software, such as introdus, can provide a streamlined way of managing and planning return-to-work plans, and reboarding employees (also known as re-onboarding).

This article will address return-to-work both as a reality many employees face throughout their careers, as well as a formal framework supporting the employees after temporary absence. It will tackle some classic leave of absence scenarios and associated strategies for how to re-onboard employees.

What Does Reboarding Employees Mean?


Reboarding or re-onboarding is similar to onboarding, except it regards current or previous employees who have been away from the office for an extended length of time.

This could for example be a parent coming back from maternity/paternity leave or an employee coming back after a longer period of illness. 

Reboarding helps employees become re-acquainted with the company, its values, their coworkers and sets up the employee’s return for success. Reboarding can also be seen as a component of the employee lifecycle – a retake of the onboarding phase of the cycle.

If you have been away from the company, you might feel that you are not up-to-date with the latest programmes and tasks. Reboarding ensures that you are provided with everything you need once you resume work.


What to Consider When Reboarding Returning Employees


To help you get a sense of what reboarding is and how to implement a reboarding process, we have created a list of 5 tips/elements that should not be disregarded in order to create a good reboarding experience:

1. Reboarding requires planning & being prepared

It is very important that you coordinate and plan the return-to-work process. This means paying attention to things such as ensuring that the computer, desk and other needs are in order. If items have been utilized by someone else in the period of absence, this needs to be addressed.

If relevant, ensure that electronic aids have been installed with the newest programs and software. This way, you ensure that your returned employee feels welcomed back, and not treated like an afterthought.

2. Reboarding requires providing a support person

It is really important for you as a returning employee to count on a support person. This could for example be a colleague you feel comfortable around. The support person is someone you can turn to if a problem were to occur, or if you have any concerns which you don’t feel like sharing with the manager.

A trusted colleague or support person will make the reboarding and reintegration process much easier for all parties involved.

3. Communication is essential when reboarding

Conversations between yourself, your employer and coworkers are of vital importance and should not just take place on the return day. The return to work interview is really important, but it cannot be the only point of interaction.

Instead, there should be ongoing correspondence while showing continuous support and understanding. This will definitely determine how valued and motivated you feel as a returning employee. For the employer, these conversations provide an opportunity to talk about recent and upcoming changes and to get a better understanding of your specific needs.

Furthermore, it is very important to talk about how you prefer to be welcomed back. In cases of absence due to long-term illness, you may feel particularly vulnerable. Therefore, talk about whether you want to inform the current staff about the illness and the circumstances. Do you wish to continue as if nothing has happened? Or are you comfortable to talk openly about it? Talk to your employer about what the best solution is for you. 

4. Re-introductions to the team

If you have a digital pre- & onboarding process, consider letting the returning employee re-take some of the tests and learning modules. It often makes sense to let the returning employee choose which modules they feel are most urgent and necessary to re-discover. This will also ensure a better and smoother resumption for everyone.


5. Reboarding might require cooperating with experts

To ensure a fast and successful reboarding experience, your employer can consider involving experts.

For example, if you have been absent due to stress, a professional coach can be a tremendous help in getting you back on your feet. It can truly help becoming fully engaged and reaching time-to-productivity faster. Even though this will be a cost for your company, it will be a good long-term investment due to higher motivation and engagement. This support can lead to you taking less time on sick leave and prevent a potential relapse. Thus, coaching might help you learn to deal with stressful situations and the pressure of coming back.

Reboarding Sportlight

30% of employees injured on their job would lose days from work.

—Based on a survey done by CatalystRTW in April 2017.

Reboarding Sportlight

30% of employees injured on their job would lose days from work.

—Based on a survey done by CatalystRTW in April 2017.

Finding a New Balance: Returning to Work after Maternity Leave (or Parental Leave)


It probably comes as no surprise that returning to work after maternity/parental leave is a challenging process. It takes time to adapt, not just from a purely work and productivity perspective, but also emotionally. Although many employees end up feeling overwhelmed when returning to work after maternity/parental leave, a comprehensive return-to-work plan can alleviate some of the stress and make the transition feasible for each individual employee.

From an employer perspective it is crucial that, when returning to work after maternity/parental leave, you would operate efficiently without having dropped any of the skills needed to fulfill your work duties.

As is the case with any employee returning to work, an individual plan should be drafted between yourself and the employer (line manager). This sets a realistic timeline and expectations in terms of workload and duties, working hours, ambitions and objectives.


Flexibility at the Forefront: Phased Return to Work


According to the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service, a ‘phased return to work’ occurs when an employee who’s been temporarily absent from work, returns to work on either:

  •   Reduced hours
  •   Light duty work
  •   Different duties

A phased return to work can be an appropriate strategy if you have been ill and might still be experiencing residual symptoms, or if you are returning from a parental leave and need time to adjust to your new life as a parent. 

Phased returns to work are desirable if you require a higher degree of flexibility. This strategy gives you the option to begin working part-time, either on select days of the week or through shortened workdays, thus allowing you to return to work at your own pace. 

Once arrangements are made with regards to the working schedule, a phased return to work strategy could also cover which type of tasks you should perform until you are fully recovered and capable of fully resuming your original duties. 


Below is a phased return to work plan example:

Reboarding: A gradual return-to-work plan to ensure an easy transition

In this arrangement, for the period, your payment would be 75 work hours + 65 hours at half pay; meaning a total payment of 107.5 hours paid out of 140 hours. This means a total of 32.5 hours will not be paid. 


A Formalized Return-to-Work Programme


Although undesirable, workplace injuries, illnesses, and accidents are a reality for many employees and their respective employers. Notwithstanding the fact that preventing injuries is the best way to protect employees and to control their compensation costs. However, employers and workers need a way to manage injuries or illnesses if they do occur. 

According to The International Social Security Association (ISSA), workplace-based return-to-work programmes are generally created to ensure workplace attachment for a person whose continued employment is jeopardized due to a disabling occupational or non-occupational injury or health condition.

A return-to-work programme is not only about your return to work, but also ensuring that you have access to prompt and proper (medical) care from the very beginning of the recovery process. Hence, a formal return-to-work programme facilitates the development and implementation of an individualized plan immediately after the occurrence of injury/illness. It is customarily based on a return-to-work interview and meeting.

In an attempt to aid the employee to ease their transition back to work, some companies include a return-to-work supplement as part of their return-to-work programme. This is a form of financial aid for workers who suffered a disproportionate loss of income as a result of their on-the-job injury or illness. The return-to-work supplement is an exemplary component of a formal return-to-work programme.

A well structured return-to-work programme can be instrumental in preventing employees not returning to work after short term disability.



Return-to-work Plan and Process


The return-to-work plan and process are based on the idea of partnership between all the parties involved, and a shared commitment to the goal of returning either new parents or injured/ill workers to employment. 

Having a concrete return-to-work plan and process ensures that all parties involved participate in a framework encouraging reflections on expectations and possible challenges.

Some companies choose to enforce return to work coordinator training, so as to have in-house specialists that can manage employees returning to work. Having someone exclusively handle this issue, assures an optimum process, which is more desirable than deploying a standard HR professional (who will already have other tasks to fulfill with a higher degree of urgency).

A return to work plan will:

  • Have an inventory of the case details (plus any alterations to the compensation scheme).
  • List the stakeholders involved.
  • Set a concrete goal.
  • List the actions and activities required to meet the goal.
  • Set a timeline for meeting the goal, as well as a daily schedule.
  • List any job modifications (schedule, tasks, workplace set-up).
  • List healthcare considerations if applicable.
  • Set-up evaluation dates for reviewing the process and the progress. 


Getting Back-to-work Plan: What You Need to Do


As mentioned earlier, your work plays an integral role in your recovery coupled with the psychological support from your therapist, friends, family, and colleagues.

In reality, your return can be overwhelming because you have been away for some considerable period, hence you must engage your healthcare provider and discuss your plan to return to the office and your concern about returning to work. 

Getting a back-to-work plan entails some ideal strategies that can help you manage your return to work:

Step 1: Discuss with your employer 

You must talk to your employer about the useful training you might need to enhance your effectiveness upon your return to the office. Your manager plays a vital role in your return to work. You must maintain an open and honest approach in your discussion with him. 

Step 2: Seek the required assistance

In the discussion with your manager, you can solicit help that can be rendered to you such as workplace accommodation. Also, discuss other issues that could enhance your efficiency. While discussing with your manager, leverage the opportunity to reaffirm your commitment to the organization and reinforce your skills and abilities to him. 

Step 3: Take an inventory of the right support system

Again, you need to develop support resources by taking an inventory of your existing support system. This will include your employee assistance program, your representative at work, family, friends, and community. 

Step 4: Inform your company about your plan to return to work 

Inform them about your plan to return to the office and let them know how they will be of assistance to you. Also, another factor that can ease your return to office plan is getting regular daily exercise and maintaining a healthy diet to aid your recovery process. Establishing a healthy sleeping routine is also a vital return to the work action plan.


Back-to-work Programme Checklist 


If you are thinking about returning to work, and you are feeling confused or overwhelmed about what is expected from you next, we have compiled a checklist of things to consider, so you can be ready for your return-to-work meeting:

  • Reach out to your healthcare provider and seek their clearance and further recommendations.
  • Check your team’s and company’s communication channels so as to be fully updated with the latest happening and updates and regain work engagement.
  • Do a self-awareness exercise and jot down the details of your current condition and how it could impact your work. Think especially about any challenges preventing you from successfully performing work duties. 
  • Once you are updated with the progress that the team has achieved in your absence, consider whether any new opportunities could be present for you.
  • Focus on realizing whether you have reconsidered at all your career path and priorities.
  • When it comes to workload, will you be able to fully resume work as it was prior to the absence (in terms of both schedule and responsibilities)?
  • Consider whether you will require a phased return to work strategy to facilitate your transition.
  • Consider drafting a return to work letter to your line manager and/or return to work coordinator formally informing them of your intentions to resume work.

You can download a return-to-work letter template below:


Get template


Reboarding: A gradual return-to-work plan to ensure an easy transition

Benefits of Reboarding: Why employee’ return-to-work is good for everyone


A return-to-work programme presents multiple benefits for the parties involved. 

There is substantial evidence that work is beneficial for your physical and mental health, whereas unemployment and long-term absence due to sickness often have a harmful impact on your well-being. This is one of the reasons why returning to work helps you recover a sense of normality and restores your identity. This can lead to an increase in self-respect, mental well-being and social inclusion.

Also, continued and economically viable and sustained employment for injured, ill or disabled employees ensures that they will, potentially, not enter the social security system. Instead, they remain as fully economical and social contributors and participants in all aspects of society. 

A poorly managed employee return-to-work can contribute to relapse, further absence and, in some cases, an exit from work – an instance where the employee refuses to return to work altogether. 

In order for a return-to-work program to be successful, it is crucial for it to be based on the idea of partnership between all the parties involved and a shared commitment to the goal of returning injured or ill workers to employment. A poorly managed return-to-work programme can instead contribute to relapse, further absence and, in some cases, an exit from work – an instance where the employee refuses to return to work altogether. 

In summary, a formalized return-to-work program presents multiple benefits for all of the parties involved. Below you can read more about how a return-to-work program benefits each individual group:


Benefits for injured/sick employees

  • Maintain their employment security, seniority and benefits, which provides job security and financial independence and alleviates the feelings of dependency and lack of control,
  • Receive personalized and effective treatment adapted to their circumstances,
  • Maintaining dignity and self worth by remaining productive and maintaining necessary job skills by focusing on their abilities and not their disabilities,
  • Maintain social contact and support from co-workers,
  • Receive additional financial relief if the employer chooses to enact a return to work supplement program, thus providing an additional financial disbursement,
  • In case of a women’s return to work  programme, it can help preserve new mothers 
in the labor force, as stay-at-home moms are often an untapped resource with valuable and relevant skills.

Benefits for employers

  • Reduce staff turnover and training costs by retaining experienced and knowledgeable workers,
  • Improve the morale and employee relations by offering return to work plans for both work-related and non-work-related injury or illness, 
  • Promote a culture of support and choice in the workplace – a culture that makes returning workers feel valued, worthy and not necessarily blamed for absence; this will improve work attitudes and create a good public image for the company,
  • Minimize non-recoverable expenses (employee benefits, the hiring and training of replacement workers), the cost of inexperienced workers, and reduce accident and workplace costs,
  • Decreased the number of grievances and arbitrations. 

Benefits for co-workers

  • Improve productivity because skilled and productive workers are kept on the job rather than burdening existing employees with an additional workload until replacement arrangements are in place. 
  • Completion of meaningful alternative duties that may not have otherwise been accomplished due to other priorities.
  • Where relevant, healthcare providers are included and supported in their decisions and treatment strategies. Rehabilitation and occupational health professionals can be a key for the success of a return-to-work program, because they are a bridge between the workplace and the healthcare system.
  • Unions maintain the employment rights of their members.
  • The workers’ compensation system can manage rising health costs by ensuring that sick or injured employees regain productivity as soon as physically possible, while continuing to provide benefits to injured workers and their dependents.  

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