Bringing Staff Back To Work After Furlough – Supporting Your Team

Returning to work after furlough

Many businesses are bringing staff back to work after furlough leave. But how easy will they find it to come back to work?

Trying to find your focus again after a 2-week holiday is bad enough. And holidays are generally restful and relaxing!

Due to the pandemic, staff may have been out of work on furlough for considerably longer than 2 weeks. They may well have been able to rest and relax. But they may also have had lots of worries and concerns because of the pandemic. Their headspace may not be where you, or they, would like it to be.

Think about those days when you really don’t want to be at work. Chances are you’re irritable, make mistakes or forget things. You need staff to return focused, motivated, and productive. But what factors might make this difficult to achieve?

  • Are they dealing with any financial challenges? For example, their partner is facing redundancy.
  • Are they available to return to work? For example, do they have on-going concerns such as childcare or health?
  • Are there any specific COVID-19 health and safety risks you need to assess? For example, pregnancy or underlying health conditions.
  • Have they sadly experienced any significant events including bereavement?
  • Are they worried about coming back? For example, feeling safe.

We are less productive when we are:

  • Distracted with other things
  • Worried or unhappy about something
  • Tired or sleep-deprived
  • Unwell
  • Demotivated

You may now be planning which team members to un-furlough and how and when to do so.

Discussing challenges with all your team will help you plan. And help them to return in a positive way.

A simple video or telephone conversation will go a long way to help them re-gain their work focus.

Address staff fears about returning to work after furlough

Explore what might help them to return by:

  • Showing understanding of their personal situation
  • Exploring practical or reasonable ways to assist them back to work
  • Explaining any extra health & safety measures which are now in place
  • Clarifying how social distancing will work
  • Confirming any new working from home arrangements
  • Considering temporary flexible working
  • Offering refresher training
  • Explore changes to working pattern or hours if needed

Keep an open mind to staff requests

Your employee’s head may be in the game……but it might be a different game to the one you were expecting!

Lockdown has given everyone time to reflect on what we want out of life. People may ask for new training, express interest in promotion, or ask to reduce hours.

People may also want to resign. Keep an open mind and look for business opportunities!

Plan for changes in your business

Your business may be facing a period of uncertainty.

Help your employees by being honest with them. Be upfront about where the business is currently. Also, where you need it to be and how you can all work together to achieve this.

Do not make promises you may not be able to keep and ere on the side of caution.

Help staff during uncertain times by demonstrating you value their experience and knowledge. Seek their ideas and thoughts on what might be possible. Also explore less favourable options. If it would save jobs, you might consider temporarily reducing hours or salary.

If this is needed, appropriate consultation, notice and agreement is important.

Keep staff mental health in mind

Your legal duty of care to your staff extends to their mental well-being as well as their physical health. You must do everything you can to ensure their smooth return to work after furlough leave.

Encourage team discussion. Talk to them about the last few weeks. Give them a structured opportunity to offload with colleagues. This will help them to focus and be productive.

If you notice changes in someone’s behaviour or attitude, talk to them. Not everyone will adjust well to the changes. A simple chat might suffice for some staff. Others might benefit from professional help such as counselling.

Proactively supporting your team in challenging circumstances will not only motivate them but help your business in the longer term.

Do you have any questions around bringing staff back to work after furlough? If so, get in touch today. Contact Debbie on 07885 370054 or email

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