How to return furloughed staff back to work

With almost 11 weeks of lockdown in the UK, we have only just got to grips with our new working conditions. Now, with lockdown restrictions slowly beginning to ease, offices are planning for reopening. A new ‘blended’ model of working will become the norm, with some employees always working from home, in the office or a combination of both. 

Not everyone has been working, some of our colleagues have been furloughed or working reduced hours. Employers must look beyond the present and plan for those missing colleagues to return to the workplace. This is exciting but will provide a challenge; furloughed staff will need to be brought up to speed after missing out on weeks of activity. Ensuring these staff members are re-immersed will be essential, both from a productivity point of view but also allowing them to feel  connected to both their company and colleagues. 

There will be many ongoing issues relating to the new processes and practises after the COVID-19 outbreak. Companies will need to rapidly digitise to facilitate their employees preferences and keep up momentum. 

At ClearPeople we have the expertise to help companies adjust to this new normal, stay productive and at the same time, help people recognise the new opportunities this situation brings.

Re-engaging and re-uniting furlough employees 

Over the last few months it is likely that furloughed staff will have become disengaged and out of touch. Therefore, rebuilding a strong culture and providing your employees with new, valuable updates must be a priority. 

With company dynamics expected to be firmly under the microscope, it is paramount that everyone understands the new goals of their business and where it is headed. Creating strong, aligned values will help to build culture and identity, helping to unite employees and set a clear direction. 

The pandemic has been life changing for many, there will be a diverse range of  impact across employees. With some being affected more than others, this unbalanced effect of people’s work and personal experience may present themselves as negative feelings in the new working environment. Inclusivity is therefore vital, managers should be sensitive to any underlying tension and resolve any early signs of conflict within teams. 

Returning to work especially when there have been changes whilst away, may be daunting to some employees, feeling left behind. To help bring staff back into work, we are working with our clients to get their digital workspace well prepared. Returning employees must have all the tools they need on their first day back and will be provided with welcome back videos from the leadership team, detailed business updates and more. Everyone will need remote access to useful resources such as return to work checklists and advice on health and safety and potential travel, as well as answers to any questions they may have. 

Businesses must facilitate open discussions where staff can talk freely, support one and other, ask for advice or simply catch, whether this is digitally or in-person. Due to the potential sensitivity of the situation, managers will need to go above and beyond to welcome their colleagues back, providing the opportunity for key updates regarding any adjustments to facilitate effective returns to work. 

Managers should be equipped to detail any in-company changes following the lockdown, such as changes to services or procedures, new working arrangements, or how to deal with legacy customer queries. This is likely to be the biggest single shift in the fabric of our society and wholescale changes are essential to evolve with the situation. Knowledge is power, so the more information you can share with your employees, the better, allowing faster adaptation to embrace their new working world. 


Having the ability to communicate and share ideas is key for productivity and allowing innovation to flourish. With the new blended model of working, there will be less physical time for colleagues to interact face-to-face. These conversations can occur for the majority of businesses online, which needs to be supported through the right tools and guidance. Although we spend a lot of our lives online this should not be taken for granted and assumed to come naturally to all. Training will be required to ensure everyone knows what is at their disposal and can remain as productive as they were.

Other than communication, there are steps to ensure productivity is kept high. Naturally, getting back into the swing of working a full day will be difficult for some. Therefore guiding your colleagues to follow a structure will be vital in helping them bridge this gap. Implement regular meetings and catch-ups, not just for work but to help maintain a level of social contact. We’ve all been on countless Zoom quizzes recently but touches like this can make all the difference.

New Opportunities 

Whilst the new working world may be unsettling, there are some great opportunities for businesses to take advantage of. For example, traditional approaches to work may not have been as welcoming to those with different capabilities whether it was physically, mentally or socially. Remote and flexible working will allow for more diversity within the workforce and people to contribute in new ways.  

Like many other companies, we have been forced to reduce or eliminate unnecessary systems, streamline processes and even delegate decision making which, in turn, has resulted in increased efficiency. This ability to respond quickly will be essential to future, necessary pivots. 

It may be a cliche but your staff are the most important asset to any business. It has been a difficult time for us all, but especially those who were asked to take a back seat. Make sure to spend the time and effort to ensure they’re welcomed back and made to feel as essential as they are. Simply telling the truth and creating a new normal can be a great place to start again.