1 July 2020

Life after furlough

By Jo Moody

The phrase “unprecedented times” has never been used so frequently or so appropriately for our workplace generation.  And we’re still experiencing something outlandish and incomparable, while trying determinedly to return to as close to normal as we can.

As the furlough programme, or Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, takes its first steps towards winding down and some furloughed staff members begin returning to work (even if that still means working from home) we need to accept that returning to normal may actually feel a little strange at first.

When furlough was introduced it represented a wonderful opportunity for those employers desperate to protect their teams while fighting to keep business profitable or simply just stay trading.  For staff members it provided a safety net, safeguarding jobs and lessening the worry of what might happen.  One way or another, furloughed staff had to find a new rhythm, be it home schooling, supporting elderly neighbours, volunteering, or simply dedicating time to home and garden.

Businesses with furloughed staff have managed the process in myriad ways.  From my point of view, BWP was fantastic at trying to imbue as much company culture as possible into regular comms, training opportunities, social Friday zoom calls and regular line manager updates.  All of which have made the transition back to work that little bit easier.

The first day back is a somewhat surreal experience. It’s truly joyful to join a call and see so many familiar faces, hear the same banter and stupid jokes and know that the team spirit remains alive and well.  Despite the familiarity, it also feels strangely like a new job in some ways.  There’s an initial feeling of being an outsider, knowing that a core team has powered through while you’ve been absent, wondering what’s changed and learning the new, adapted processes that have evolved since furlough began.  Your workload may have altered too, be it a return on reduced hours, or a client that’s been absorbed into someone else’s remit.  Whatever changes have occurred, it’s important to focus on the positives, as these adaptions will mean fresh opportunities and an exciting new way ahead.

It’s amazing how quickly familiarity surpasses strangeness.  You can bet that your colleagues are pleased to have you back and your trusty skillset remains.  You can hit the ground running with tasks you know inside out and once you’re underway, the confidence grows! At BWP, the people make the business what it is, and as more of us return, the more it feels like the old normal, even if it is still via a screen.

It’s also good to be regaining control, for employers and employees alike, after all furlough was thrust upon us.  As decisions fall back into our own hands, we are sure to feel a bit more comfortable about the way forward and being able to shape it by our own design and best judgement. 

For those returning from furlough, I can confidently say that we have one thing in common: a keen enthusiasm to throw ourselves back into driving business forward, being part of the team, and pursuing success through these tough times. Furlough was a lifesaver when we needed it most, but let’s be honest – it’s good to be back!

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