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. 

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

In addition, we have prepared a simple return to work plan example based on a month. You will find a gradual plan based on hours worked from home and from the office.

What Does Return-to-Work Plan and Process Mean?


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. 

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.

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.


What Does Reboarding Mean?


Reboarding or re-onboarding has a similar meaning 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 can also be seen as a component of the employee lifecycle – a retake of the onboarding phase of the cycle. It is part of an entire employee lifecycle strategy.

Reboarding Sportlight

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

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

What to Include in Your Return-to-Work Plan?


What to consider when reboarding or returning employees? 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. 


Get a simple return to work plan example, where you will find a gradual plan based on hours worked from home and from the office. This plan is based on one month and from Monday to Friday as working days.


The Main Six Steps When Getting Back-to-Work Plan


As mentioned earlier, work plays an integral role in employees’ recovery coupled with psychological support from your therapist, friends, family, and colleagues. In reality, their return can be overwhelming because they have been away for a considerable period. Employees must engage their healthcare provider and discuss their plan to return to the office and their concerns about returning to work.

Getting a back-to-work plan entails some ideal steps that can help them manage their return to work:

Step 1: Prepared and Coordinate a Flying Reboarding

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. Someone else has used these items in the period of absence.

Step 2: Assign a Buddy Also for a Gradual Return to Work

It is really important to assign a support person to your re-board employees. The support person is someone they can turn to if a problem were to occur, or if they have any concerns. In the end, a trusted colleague or support person will make the reboarding and reintegration process much easier for all parties involved.

Step 3: Organise a Pre-Return-to-Work Meeting

Employees and employers must talk about a gradual training. Then, employees enhance their effect upon their return to the office. Their managers also play a vital role in their return to work. Both parties must maintain an open and honest approach.

Step 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.

Step 5: Facilitate The Employee-Required Assistance

Employees can solicit help with workplace accommodation. Also, they might discuss other issues that could enhance their efficiency. While discussing with their manager, leverage the opportunity to reaffirm their commitment to the organization and reinforce their skills.

Step 6: Build an Easy and Effective Content

Companies must develop support resources with useful information for their re-boarded employees. This will include your employee reboarding program.

Return to Work Insight

About 37% of all cases of work-related ill health were due to stress.

According to the Health and Safety Executive.

Back-to-Work Programme Checklist


Employees can feel confused or overwhelmed about what is expected from them next. Consider they will require a phased return to work strategy to facilitate their transition. 

We have compiled a checklist of things to consider, so they can be ready for their return-to-work meeting:

  • Seek the healthcare providers’ clearance and further recommendations from them.
  • Communicate with their managers and ask them to prepare the latest happenings and updates to help re-boarded employees regain work engagement.
  • Schedule feedback meetings with the employees.
  • Consider whether any new opportunities could be present for them.
  • When it comes to workload, will they be able to fully resume work as it was prior to the absence (in terms of both schedule and responsibilities)? That’s why managers should have a gradual return-to-work plan prepared for employees.

In addition, we have prepared a downloaded return-to-work letter template for former re-board employees. They will communicate with their company both with regard to their intention of resuming work, but also their current state, opportunities and challenges:

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

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 Interview: Get the Best out of the Exercise

A return to work interview is a face-to-face or online meeting between an employee and the line manager with a focus on the recent absence from work. Furthermore, return to work interviews help to:

  • Reduce unacceptable short-term absence
  • Confirm that an employee is fit to be at work
  • Identify any underlying conditions or disabilities
  • Determine whether there is any measure that can be put in place by your employer to prevent another absence of a similar nature.


Return to Work Interview Questions

The return to work interview question is asked so that your line manager can know the reason behind your absence. In addition, it will help ascertain your fitness level and deduce whether you can resume your role or not. 

No doubt, employees do harbour the fear of accruing more sickness days. However, with the return to work interview questions, your supervisor can deduce your mental and physical fitness level.

The following are what return to work interview questions cover:

  • The period of the employee’s absence
  • Developments that happened in the workplace while you were away
  • Adjustments to your role and working hours upon your return

Some of the questions your line manager would ask you are listed below:

  • How are you feeling now?
  • Are you fit enough to be back at work?
  • Have you been given any medication routine, and are there any side effects that your line manager needs to know?
  • Is the sickness an ongoing or recurring condition?
  • Are there any adjustments that could aid your attendance?

Generally, the tone of the return to work interviews is always positive, and it is a process of welcoming you back on board after being away for some time. Also, you will be provided with the necessary update that occurred during your absence to identify the necessary adjustments you need to adapt to aid you in settling down into your role.

Return to Work Interview Template

  • Five questions your line manager would ask you:
  • How are you feeling now?
  • Are you fit enough to be back at work?
  • Have you been given any medication routine, and are there any side effects that your line manager needs to know?
  • Is the sickness an ongoing or recurring condition?
  • Are there any adjustments that could aid your attendance?

Return to Work Interview after Stress


In reality, stress is inevitable in the life cycle of every employee, and it must be properly managed because it is responsible for work hours loss and reduced productivity. According to the Health and Safety Executive in 2016, as stated on, 37% of all cases of work-related ill health were due to stress.

Also, it was reported that each of the cases resulted in an average loss of 24 working days. After your absence from work due to stress, your return to work is preceded by a return to work interview after stress. A return to work interview after stress is conducted to ensure that all issues related to the stress are well explored.

In most cases, return to work after sickness interview questions are always open and supportive to establish the complete understanding of the sickness, like stress from every perspective to reduce possible triggers.

The use of HSE management standards for work-related stress could be leveraged during the return to work interview after stress to address the following: 

Demand: this addresses issues like workload, work patterns, and the environment.

Control: this addresses the level of power the employee has in the way the work is executed.

Support: this involves the motivation, assistance, and resources provided by the company, supervisor, and co-workers.

Relationship: this involves the promotion of a positive working environment to avoid conflict and addressing unethical behavior.

Role: this is centred on clarifying employees’ roles to avoid issues related to the conflict in roles among the workers.

Change: this addresses how organizational change is managed and communicated in the firm.

Return to Work Insight

37% of mothers returning to work after maternity leave felt so unsupported and isolated on their return that it made them consider leaving the job.

—Survey conducted by the British MMB Magazine in 2018.

Returning to Work after Maternity Leave or Parental Leave


It probably comes as no surprise that returning to work after maternity leave is a challenging process. It takes time to adapt, not just from a purely work and productivity perspective, but also emotionally. A survey carried out by LinkedIn in 2020 revealed that more than 60% of working mothers who returned to work experienced challenges in re-entering the workforce. Over 80% affirmed that their employer had no programs supporting working parents coming back from a break. 


How to Plan for Returning from Maternity Leave

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. They will deal with a new identity in many cases, and a new life balance. The reboarding content must take it into account. This can translate into a phased return to work approach:

  • Returning to work part time after maternity leave
  • Opting for a role change after maternity leave if the tasks are too heavy to perform right off the bat
  • Opting for a hybrid work arrangement

We have identified some questions to consider when preparing a plan to return from maternity leave, especially for new parents:

  • How has the employee personal and career personalities shifted since becoming a mother?
  • Do they want/ are they able to commit to their old schedule right upon your return to work?
  • How have workplaces evolved during your leave? Has their role changed in any way?
  • Is working from home a feasible option for your company/ work role?


Tips for Easing the Pressure of Being Back to Work after Maternity Leave

We have made for employees a list of tips meant to ease the pressure of being back to work after maternity leave:

  • Employees can engage in return from maternity leave email communication with your team and manager prior to being physically back to work after maternity leave. They will reestablish the personal connection and feel up to speed.
  • If they ever feel overwhelmed and mentally drained, they should ask for support and don’t hold it all to themselves. Otherwise, it could result in you quitting your job after maternity leave.
  • If a while after being back to work after maternity leave things just don’t feel right, employees mustn’t be afraid to take a step back and reassess what brings happiness and fulfillment in their life.
  • Employees should find a support system so as not to feel isolated and overwhelmed.

According to MMB Magazine, fewer than one in five women feel confident returning to work after maternity leave. So they shouldn’t be afraid to ask for a thorough return-to-work program. A well-structured reboarding process will help them feel confident when returning and gain productivity as soon as possible.

Return to Work Insight

80% of working mothers affirmed that their employer had no programs supporting working parents coming back from a break.

—Survey carried out by LinkedIn in 2020.

Return to Work Solutions


An employee onboarding software, such as introdus, can provide a streamlined way of managing and planning return-to-work plans.

Organizations need to use the right platform during the return to work interview exercise because a great deal of confidentiality is involved. In addition, as a tool, introdus will simplify the process of capturing and saving information from the exercise.  

In conclusion, organizations should strive to provide their employees with a positive experience of returning to work after an absence and help them feel valued and appreciated in the organization. Doing this will spur them to be loyal and committed to their employers, thereby enhancing their productivity.

Activate your gradual return to work plan.


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