Return to work after furlough won’t be simple, expert warns

PUBLISHED: 04:22 18 May 2020 | UPDATED: 08:36 18 May 2020

Vicky Webber of Lovewell Blake  Picture: PAUL HARRISON PHOTOGRAPHY

Vicky Webber of Lovewell Blake Picture: PAUL HARRISON PHOTOGRAPHY


Employer flexibility will be vital as anxious furloughed workers begin to return to work, a business expert says.

Vicky Webber of East Anglian business advice and accountancy firm Lovewell Blake says company bosses will need to be mindful of genuine anxieties about going back to the workplace – from health concerns for staff and their families to public transport and childcare issues.

With employers and employees turning their attention to when and how they re-join the workforce following the government’s announcements on getting the country back to work, there are challenges, she warned.

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“After as much as two months away from their place of work, and with considerable uncertainty and anxiety still in the air, this process won’t be as simple as staff members coming back in at 9am one morning and picking up where they left off,” she said.

“Aside from the fact that they will have got out of the habit of actually doing their job, there are all sorts of distractions, ranging from concern about having to home-school their children, financial worries, and, of course, genuine anxiety about their health and that of their families.”

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It is important to listen to staff, she said. “Some will be perfectly happy to come back, others will be relieved but uncertain, and still more will be very reluctant to leave the relative safety of their homes,” she said. “Allowing them the opportunity to express these concerns shows that you are taking them seriously – if you don’t, you can’t expect staff to operate effectively on their return.”

For those struggling to return, working from home might be an option but for those who have to come in to do their job, issues such as implementing social distancing, provide appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) and hand sanitiser will all have a bearing on how quickly staff adapt to being back at work, she suggested.

She predicted that even on their return, “the world of work is unlikely to be the same again”.

Flexibility was vital, she added, and might entail staggered work hours, or working from home all or part of the week – or working part-time for a while.

Staff will also need to be re-inducted, she suggested, as not only will they be “a bit rusty”, they will also need to get used to a new way or working. Managers would need to set out realistic expectations, she said.

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