Returning to work after being furloughed

Written by Michelle Mook on . Posted in Sunflower Diaries

Last week we shared what it was like for one person to be furloughed, of course the experience will be different for everyone as we all have our own circumstances, thoughts, and feelings. We hope sharing it would remind us not everyone will feel the same way as we feel, and therefore the importance of having 1:1s when people return to work will be paramount to avoid us making assumptions or applying new ways of working that are based on our view of the world.

This week we thought it would be useful to share the thoughts and feelings of someone who was furloughed and then returned to work. The assumption made was that this individual would just hit the ground running and, after a couple of days, that is exactly what happened. However how the first couple of days played out, even the individual was surprised! Here’s what they had to say.

“I was looking forward to getting back to work, not least for the money, but also for the sense of purpose, so when the day came, I was very surprised to feel what I felt. I can only describe it as a momentary loss of confidence, thinking I cannot do this, then mixed with I don’t want to do this and then feeling like I wanted to ‘run away’.

The first task was to phone around a few people, but I put the calls off not really knowing why – maybe slight anxiety – who knows! I just wanted to stay in my comfort zone those first couple of days and work behind the scenes, so that’s exactly what I did, and by mid-week I was back to my old self. So, it did not take long to wind back up again, but even I was taken aback about how I felt in those first couple of days. Even more interesting, this was only after being furloughed for 3 weeks, and I had constant contact with the team whilst I was off. I can’t imagine how I would feel after 3 months, and if there has been little contact with the team, I do wonder how I would have coped”


Our challenge to you

  • Check in with your furloughed team regularly
  • Think about how you are going to get people ‘re-boarded’
  • Book 1:1s with people on their first day back and find out what they need from you in the short term

These things can cost nothing except time and will pay dividends in the longer term for your employee engagement.

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