8 Ways to Help Your Furloughed Employees Return to Work


But returning to work can be daunting prospect for your employees

Today sees the end of the furlough scheme in the UK and with the latest figures saying that 1.6 million people were on furlough at the end of July (HMRC), there’s a lot of people still to return to work.

With the furlough scheme starting in April 2020, there is a possibility that some of your teams haven’t been at work for over a year! So, the thought of returning could be causing feelings of stress, anxiety, or uneasiness.

If you’re bringing back employees this week, there’s a few things you can do to help ease the transition. Here’s just some things to consider…


What are the challenges of returning to work?

Although getting over a year off work sounds like a dream, the reality is far from it. Your furloughed employees who are returning might be struggling with:

  • Lack of motivation: being out of the routine of work could make it difficult for your employees who are facing coming back after a long period off. This could impact their motivation and engagement levels.
  • Anxieties about a return to office: for those of your employees who have been on furlough there is a lot about returning to office that could be causing your teams to worry. If you’ve started hybrid working, or you’re in an industry where your employees can’t work from home, then your people might be facing challenges they’ve not had to deal with for a while like commuting on busy public transport or even seeing more people than they’re used to.
  • Apprehensions about losing their new work/life balance: people on furlough might have spent more time with friends and family, worked on new skills, or developed new hobbies. Your employees may have concerns about losing these benefits as they return to work and try to find a new balance.
  • Physical health concerns: there are a lot of measures that you could have put in place to keep your people safe while at work, but if your furloughed employees don’t know about these then they might be concerned about the impacts coming back to work will have on their physical health.
  • Mental health worries: between financial stress, isolation and a lack of structure to their day, being on furlough could have long-term impacts on your employees’ mental wellbeing.
  • Doubts about job security: there is an obvious concern for many of your employees who have been on furlough that their job isn’t safe, which could be causing them stress and anxiety. But this isn’t just limited to your employees returning, according to a survey from Renovo, 56% of employees who weren’t furloughed are still worried about being made redundant.
  • Other work: A number of people who have been on furlough have been proactive in finding other work, whether it’s for one of the many businesses who continued to operate during the pandemic or exploring their own entrepreneurial flair to build their own businesses or find novel ways of making additional income. These could be a preferred option for them when they are asked to return.


How to support your teams who have returned:

1. Talk to your employees:

There is no substitute for engaging with your teams and opening up a dialogue to understand how they feel, work through any concerns, and reconnect as they return. It’s easy if you are a leader who hasn’t been furloughed to overlook the concerns that people have and continue to experience.

2. Remind your employees of the support they have available:

From your employee benefits, to learning and development options or discounts and cashback, you will likely have a lot of support already in place that can help your employees with the challenges they’ll be facing. But they might not remember what is available and how they can access it. Make sure to remind all your employees about what’s available to them.

3. Take another look at your workspace:

Although you might have already evaluated the safety of your space when you first started bringing your teams back, now is the perfect time to check in to see if you need to make any changes as more people start using your space. It’s also to make sure you communicate the changes you have made effectively and give your teams the chance to ask questions and share any concerns they may have.

4. Re-onboard your teams:

Between long forgotten routines (and probably passwords!) coming back to work will be a big shift for your employees, especially if their role has been changed or they’ve been moved to a new team. Work with line managers to take the time to re-onboard your furloughed employees so they can adapt quickly, one thing to consider is offering training on skills they might not have used while they were on furlough to.

Also, if you’ve introduced remote or hybrid working while your employees were off then it’s likely to be an adjustment for your teams who were used to going into the office. It’s important to make sure they’ve got all the equipment they need from day one, and why not assign them a buddy who has already adapted to remote work, so they have someone to talk to and share challenges with.

5. Support your teams physical and mental wellbeing:

Between the impacts of being on furlough for an extended period, anxieties around a return to office and physical health concerns, your team’s wellbeing will be facing challenges as you bring them back. Plus, according to research from the Royal College of Psychiatrists, one in five adults are now suffering from moderate to severe depression, doubling levels pre-pandemic. So it’s likely all your employees will need a little extra support.

Here are ways you can help:

  • Encourage a culture that’s open around mental health – you could do this by educating your teams on common mental health issues, what to look out for in themselves and their colleagues and even holding discussions where people can talk about their mental health and share advice. Plus, offering an Employee Assistance Programme can help too!
  • Support their physical health with benefits – from Cycle to Work schemes to Corporate Gym Memberships and Health Screenings, there are many employee benefits you can introduce to support your teams in looking after their physical health.
  • Help with their financial wellbeing – for your teams who are coming back from furlough they might have been experiencing financial strain. To help with that you could offer employee discounts or cashback to help them save money on everyday spending.

6. Make sure they know that you appreciate them:

It can be easy to feel that if your role was furloughed then it’s less valuable to the business than a colleague who wasn’t furloughed, even though that’s not the case. You should talk to your employees to reinforce this as well as using rewards or recognition in the first few weeks that they are back to remind them that you appreciate their work!

7. Remember to support your line managers:

Managing the return for furloughed staff isn’t something many of your line managers would have experienced before, but they’ll be the first port of call for employees who are struggling. Talk them through what their team members might have been experiencing, what safety protocols you have in place, the support available and how to manage any admin like balancing holidays.

8. Don’t forget about the employees who have continued to work, or returned earlier:

For your team members who have either been working throughout or who have been brought back earlier, it can be easy for them to feel jaded that their colleagues have been off for an extended period while they’ve been holding down the fort. So, make sure to give them shoutouts, thank you gifts and treats, and addressing any wellbeing issues they may be having.


How we can help:

We can help you tailor an employee benefits and rewards strategy that can support your employees as they return to work. Speak to our experts today to get started!

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Royal College of Psychiatrists