How to ease employees back from furlough

One minute briefing: As staff adjust to working after months away from the business, Bosch’s head of business development Jenny Patten draws on her own experience of the "maternity return".

by Orianna Rosa Royle
Last Updated: 30 Sep 2020

The job retention scheme, which kept 7.5 million people in employment during the coronavirus pandemic, is coming to an end on 31 October 2020.

As the furlough winds down over the coming weeks - to be replaced with The Job Support Scheme - Bosch’s head of business development, Jenny Patten, likens transitioning employers back into the workforce to her own experience of returning from maternity leave.

“This idea that I could almost hit the ground running as soon as I came back in just isn't the reality at all”, Patten says of her maternity return experience, while warning employers not to underestimate the major adjustment staff will face after being on furlough for several months.

"I remember coming back from maternity leave and feeling out of the loop and guilty that I hadn't contributed to the business. I also hadn't adjusted my expectations on what my output would be, coming back on part-time basis. 

"Likewise, for those people who've been on furlough for over five months, just getting out of bed and sitting in front of a laptop is an adjustment which managers musn't underestimate. 

"Ease staff back in, assure them that they can be gentle with themselve and create an environment where people can raise a hand if there's a concern. 

"Top and tail the first days with a call. First identify any kind of concerns, like childcare, which will impact their ability to focus at work and try to cover that off. Then give them an idea of things you want them to focus on initially on their return and spend some time recasting expectations on their output. 

"With rapid digital transformation, your company may be working with new innovations that weren't even on the agenda when they left, so find peers they could speak to to bring them up to speed.

"Knowing that colleagues have missed out on social cohesion as a team, taking time to sit down (virtually) with everyone and chat is really important. I wouldn't want them to go away from their first day feeling like they were alone. 

"Being out of the business for months, you don’t realise how much you miss. So let them know that there's no problem with feeling behind because that's the same thing I felt when I came back from maternity leave."

Image courtesy of Bosch UK

Orianna Rosa Royle

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