The COVID-19 pandemic brought about many unexpected changes—including the need to furlough employees. But as we continue to get into stride with our new normal, and Shelter-In-Place orders loosen up, many companies are preparing their back to work plans. 

In many cases, this will require re-onboarding furloughed employees. There may be some administrative tasks that need to be completed—but don't overlook the more strategic ways you can help your employees transition back.

Everyone’s onboarding checklist for furloughed employees will be different. Consider the amount of time your employees have been furloughed, and what’s changed in that timeframe. Here are some things you should consider:

  • Welcome letter: A furlough can leave employees feeling down. Send them a note to welcome them and tell them how excited you are to have them back. Share some key details about what they might expect during their first week. If you’re welcoming employees back to the office, review any new safety precautions and procedures you have in place.
  • Reactivate accounts: Make sure employees have access to company and team accounts, including email, communication tools, and HR portals.
  • Introductions: Your team may have changed since your furloughed employees left, so be sure to make introductions as needed. Let the employee know if they have a new manager or new colleagues. Also let them know if responsibilities have changed, so they know who to go to for what. For instance, who they can reach out to in HR with questions, or who they can contact in IT for support. This is particularly important if your employee will be working remotely, as they can no longer tap a colleague on the shoulder to learn this information. Let existing employees know that some previously furloughed employees will be returning.
  • Employee information: A lot can happen in a few months time, from a local move or a relocation, to dependent changes. Ask returning employees to update their personal information in your People Ops Platform.
  • Benefits: Discuss any changes to benefits, and highlight the programs in place to support them through the pandemic. For instance, COVID-19 testing information, mental health services, and paid sick leave. 
  • Review new policies: This may include your new remote work policy, your sick leave policy, and safety procedures employees should know about. 
  • Prepare equipment: If your workforce is still remote, you should arrange for equipment delivery. If your employees are returning to the workplace, they may require a different set-up to accommodate social distancing. 
  • Training: Offer training around things like new tools you’re using or new safety measures in place. For instance, newly remote teams may be using different communication and project management tools to better collaborate. Make sure employees are familiar with these tools, and how your team is using them. If customer-facing roles have new safety procedures, review those.
  • Team building: Consider a “welcome back” team building event. While you may be working remotely, or social distancing, there are many fun ways to enhance the virtual employee experience. For example, you could host a virtual game night or organize your own “MTV cribs.”
  • Check-ins: Managers should meet with returning employees on their first day to welcome them back, and review any new responsibilities and goals. It’s also a good best practice to check in with returning employees at the end of their first day and week to see how things are going, and evaluate whether continued check-ins would be useful. 

Final thoughts

When you’re ready to bring furloughed employees back to work, there may be administrative tasks you need to complete first. But don’t stop there. Effective employee onboarding sets your employees up for success—whether they’re new or returning. Help your employees transition back to work and get up to speed on what’s changed while they’ve been out.

If you’re preparing to welcome furloughed employees back soon, but not right away, consider sending them a note to check on them and provide any updates you’re able to share. Let them know you care, and that you’re working on your return-to-work plan. You may even use this opportunity to survey furloughed employees to get an idea of how many would be coming back. Some may have already found new roles, or unable to come back for health- or childcare-related reasons. If you know this upfront, you can build it into your headcount planning or prepare for accommodations that will help employees return to work.

Sapling customers: We recently introduced our bulk rehire onboarding to bring back multiple furloughed or laid off team members at once. This will kick off your onboarding tasks for up to 100 employees at once, so you can focus on more strategic initiatives.


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Back to Work: Employee Onboarding Checklist for Furloughed Employees