Returning to Work After Furlough

Having been furloughed for nearly six months and spoken to countless people, both personally and professionally, who have been through the same thing, I thought I should offer some thoughts on the experience and tips on returning to work. With a quarter of the UK workforce having been furloughed at some point, hopefully it will help some of you!

I recently spoke to a candidate searching for a job who “admitted” to having been furloughed as though it is some shameful secret that the business they work for has been impacted by a global pandemic and economic crisis. I understood where they were coming from because I too feel a sense of embarrassment at having been more helpful to my company sat at home watching Netflix, as opposed to doing my job. Though I know objectively that being furloughed was not because of any personal fault, it is hard not to let it get you down a little, or even a lot. In spite of this, I tried hard to embrace the freedom not going to work gave me: I practiced French, taught myself to crochet, did yoga every day, and enjoyed mid-week wine without guilt. Though initially brilliant, much like many others (my colleagues included), this quickly wore off and I longed to be back at work. If there’s one silver lining to furloughed life, it’s taught me quite how much I love my job!

So fast forward months of hoping that I’d be back in the office and I get the call that I’m once again needed. Excited was an understatement but there were also definitely nerves. Will I remember how to do my job? How different is work going to be? Should I do anything to prepare for going back?

The first day back in the office with my colleagues was fantastic, but going back to work having been off for so long isn’t without its challenges.

My top tips for making the return to work as easy as possible are:

  • Be open and honest with your colleagues about how you’re feeling- chances are someone else is feeling the same way and a problem shared is a problem halved.
  • Rather than longing for a lie in, embrace having a routine again. Wake up and go to bed at the same time each day to ensure you get enough sleep.
  • Don’t just forget about your new hobbies- make time for them as you will need balance now more than ever.
  • If your company gives you the option, a phased/part-time return to work can help get you back into the swing of things more gradually.
  • Have collaborative conversations with your boss about how your organisation can best support you. A good boss will want to make the transition as smooth as possible for their employees.
  • Remember to pat yourself on the back for getting through it in one piece!

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