This is the last of a series of blogs discussing the matter of furlough. We have looked at both sides of the story for employers and employees and now that the UK is starting to unlock and return to “some kind of normal” more and more people are being invited back to work from furlough.   

What seems like a joyous occasion for some can lead to fear and difficulty for others so how do we navigate this next phase of challenges that the pandemic has created.

Speaking from experience and also being aware of what others I have spoken to have felt, making the call to furlough people was tough and sparked emotions in people that were similar to those felt that are made redundant.  Whilst the scheme was designed to protect as many people as possible from the latter, it didn’t stop some feeling as if they were surplus to requirements and left to spend their days at home with a lack of focus and purpose. 

Fast forward three months and excited managers, business owners, HR professionals find themselves making enquiries about a return to work only to be met with a mixed and sometimes unexpected response.   Some people who initially found the transition difficult have found ways to fill a void whether that be through new pursuits of DIY, gardening through to home schooling and general family life and now the prospect of working doesn’t seem so appealing or even possible. 

Understandably being thrust into a situation where they are not working for a long period of time and through no fault of their own, has had different effects on people and the contrast can be staggering.  You have those who are chomping at the bit to return, eagerly checking their messages for the call up and at the other end of the spectrum you may find those who have lost confidence or reevaluated their lives and feel that it is time to do something different.

What is the new normal?

How do employers go about adapting to these new circumstances and at the same time ensure that their businesses come out of the most challenging of times thriving as quickly as possible. 

Firstly, I think it’s important to remember that every individual is different and it is essential to talk to those returning and if there is a reticence get to the bottom of why. 

It won’t necessarily be due to a lack of willingness but more that it seems impossible if people are still expected to care for and home school children who are not able to attend their settings.  Take the time to fully understand the person’s situation and be open minded.

Try not to react emotionally to the situation but take some time out to think through what options may exist to provide both parties with a workable solution.  Perhaps reduce normal working hours, offer flexible working or holiday to bridge a gap.  Do you have other team members that can also help in adapting to the work demands that are increasing or even consider temporary staff. 

I have been asked what companies are doing after this situation in terms of getting rid of offices and allowing people to work from home permanently and is this a trend.  There has certainly been some of that but I think the simple answer is it is too early to establish exactly how this situation will continue to unfold and business owners should take careful steps not to rush into any lasting decisions. 

Keep talking to teams and listen to how this is impacting them and gradually formulate a new normal that works for both the team and the business which will be long lasting and not a knee jerk reaction. 

Benefits of remote working

There are definite benefits to increasing flexibility and allowing home working on a wider scale such as:

  • More efficient workers due to less time spent commuting
  • More agile workforce
  • Lower costs if you can reduce office size and utilities
  • More autonomous employees
  • Proven increased productivity for those who thrive working alone without distraction
  • Potential of wider net for recruitment

But equally there are cons:

  • Lack of appropriate cover for client facing services
  • Administration involved in managing who is in and out 
  • Reduced productivity for those who thrive with team interaction
  • Challenges relating to maintaining a culture when not in the same environment together
  • Communication issues

New policies should take careful consideration and involve collaboration across the board before rolling out.

The other factor which should not be taken lightly is what you plan to do to reintegrate people back into the business. For those who have continuously worked throughout it has been more of an evolving beast but for those coming back in after a break it will be a very different story.  The business landscape has changed dramatically and as you would with a new starter I think you should carefully plan the return to include training and a reframe of what is expected of them moving forward.  Also consider utilising the part time allowance to give both parties a chance to adapt and increase this over the coming weeks. 

As you will know, this has definitely not been clear cut from the start and bringing teams back from furlough is certainly no exception. 

If you’re looking to add to your team or need to cover any absences, get in touch with us. We’ve been right in this with you and we have the expertise to find the best person for your business needs regardless of the current climate.